Notebook: Packers and Labor Strife

Pay cuts possible for Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy and Mark Murphy as team tries to avoid dipping into Franchise Preservation Fund, plus several interesting nuggets from Jason Wied.

The Green Bay Packers will be able to conduct business for the foreseeable future without having to dip into their Franchise Preservation Fund, Jason Wied, the team's vice president of administration/general counsel, told a handful of reporters at Lambeau Field on Saturday.

And to help provide a "little bit of a cushion" without laying off employees ranging from security to scouts, Wied said team President/CEO Mark Murphy, general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy are among those who potentially will see "sizable" reductions in salary.

"We're comfortable that we have enough money and operating capital to function and to keep our operations together through this time," Wied said. "Really, the highest level of payments coming from the team start once the regular season begins and you start making player payments on their contracts."

Wied said salaries have been frozen and no new hiring will be allowed. He said the team looked to the "higher points" in the organizational hierarchy for pay cuts, from department managers to coaches to management. Those cuts, discussed about a year ago with the parties involved, have not been implemented and there's no timetable to do so, but it remains a "real possibility."

The franchise preservation fund totaled $127.5 million at the end of the last fiscal-year, which ended in March. Wied wouldn't say how long the team could avoid dipping into that fund, only that there isn't "an immediate or near-term risk." One reason why the team is so well-positioned financially is that there's little in the way of debt payments, he said.

Here are some other noteworthy nuggets from Wied:

— In light of the labor battle in Wisconsin between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-controlled Legislature against unions' ability to collectively bargain for state employees, Wied found it strange that the players would vote to dissolve the union.

"The advances that the players have made in terms of their compensation, the way they're treated by the league, their working conditions, everything else, really has come because of their unionization decades ago ... and their right to collectively bargain a fair deal. So now for the players to basically take the step to saying we don't want to be a union any longer, they're giving up their rights to collectively bargain and essentially leaving these things for lawyers and judges to decide. That's frustrating for the league and the teams that are involved in this, and it's surprising when you think of a union that's made so much progress to literally stand up stand say, ‘We don't want to be a union. We don't want to collectively bargain anymore.' It's just unusual, especially when you think of the current climate across the country where people are fighting for the right to collectively bargain. To have a group stand up and say, ‘We don't want that right. We don't think that's valuable. We're prepared to go out of business as a union.'"

— It's business as usual for the Packers, whether it's football operations or keeping the stadium and Hall of Fame running with tours.

"Regardless of this legal posturing and the situation we're in, we just won a Super Bowl. We're pretty excited about that and our players are excited about that."

On the football side, the Packers' scouts have been visiting pro days, just like usual, and the coaches are in the midst of their draft preparations.

"We need to be ready to go in a very short turnaround. This team will be ready to go. They are 100 percent focused on this coming season and they're not going to fall behind or sit on their hands waiting for this deal to come together. They're going to prepare like they're going to go out and defend the championship."

— The team's plans to install new scoreboards in the stadium will go on, as planned.

"The way the Packers have looked at this (is that) we've always tried to look at investments with a longtime horizon. What we decided six months ago is this would be good for our fans, it would be good for our team in the long run. Regardless of the labor situation or its impact in the short term, we still think that's the right investment to make. We're not going to sit on our hands and not invest in our business, just waiting for this to come out perfectly. We feel an obligation (to invest)."

— It's those investments that remain at the heart of the dispute. The NFL is a $9 billion per year juggernaut. But how are those funds split up, and how big of a cut does the NFL deserve off the top for things like stadium construction/renovation, new scoreboards and the like?

"The costs that have been incurred by teams to continue to promote and support the growth of the game are expensive. When teams do stadium additions, when they put new scoreboards up, when teams build new training facilities, when they work out media agreements, anything that the teams are doing to help promote the game and add to the growth of the game is intended to help both the teams and players. The players get the majority of the benefit from those investments. ... That's fine. The players are entitled to the majority of the revenue, but we're asking that these increasing costs be recognized within the system.

"We should have an incentive to grow the game, we should have an incentive to add seats to stadiums or to make the amenities better at stadiums and to do good deals. Instead, what we're finding is that the expenses related to those efforts are growing quicker and faster than the revenue. That's not good for any business. ... If you're looking at the game generationally, you need to start thinking, ‘Where are we going to be 10, 20, 30 years from now? Was there incentive to continue to grow the game?' That's the place we need to be."

— The owners offered to give the players more access to team financial records but the players said it wasn't enough. Would giving the players full access have helped keep talks going? Wied said no, saying most of the issues are not economic. He mentioned a rookie pay scale with veterans pocketing the extra money, the ability to recoup bonuses from players who are arrested and helping veteran players as unresolved issues that don't involve splitting the multibillion-dollar pie.

"It doesn't seem as if that (opening the books) would have been particularly helpful. All that being said, I think the NFL tried to meet the expectations of the players, answer the specific questions they had relative to the economic health of the league club by club. I think (the teams) provided enough information where it was very clear that the current CBA is not working for many of the clubs. I don't know that transparency on the financials of each club would have really any bearing at all on where we're at with this agreement."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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