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.


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.



Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?