NFL contract 2011: Did the players get a raw deal?

Answers to your questions about the news.
July 21 2011 6:28 PM

Did the NFL Players Get a Raw Deal?

Comparing revenue deals across the major sports leagues.

Adam Goldberg of the St. Louis Rams outside the federal courthouse after lockout hearings. Click to expand image.
Adam Goldberg of the St. Louis Rams during negotiations

National Football League players and owners neared an agreement to end a four-month lockout Thursday. The new contract would include a provision that gives players between 46 percent and 48 percent of league revenues. That's down from the previous agreement's 50-50 split. Are NFL players getting screwed on their share of league revenues, compared to other sports?

No. The numbers look pretty consistent across the country's four major sports leagues. The NFL, like every other league, has its own idiosyncratic methods of calculating payrolls and revenues—methods that have changed from one union contract to the next. Development-league salaries, stadium construction costs, multiyear contracts, bonuses, and nonsports related revenues are just some of the variables at play. But according to a 2010 paper in the Journal of Sports Economics, if you adjust for these vagaries, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League each gave players somewhere between 54 percent and 59 percent of total revenue during the early 2000s. The NFL and NBA gave their players the sweetest deals, though it's hard to make fine distinctions among the leagues. While the full details of the NFL's new agreement are still under wraps, its 46-to-48-percent figure, after adjustment, shouldn't drop out of the standard range.

Advertisement

If the new agreement goes through, NFL players will see a reduction in their revenue share since the last contract. The change represents roughly $270 million in losses for the players, at least at face value. But league owners will pay about $100 million of that back as enhanced benefits for retirees. Rookies will bear much of the remaining $170 million burden, in the form of stricter salary caps. In the end, players who are in the league already should be about as well off financially as they were under the old agreement.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Andrew Zimbalist of Smith College.

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.