Revenue sharing next fight for NFL Cowboys' Jones leads opposition to revision

January 19, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA -- Cleveland Browns owner Art Modell hasn't collected the first dollar from his Baltimore stadium deal, but NFL owners already are contemplating ways to get a share of it.

The owners concluded their meeting yesterday by discussing the thorny issue of finding new ways to have the high-revenue teams share more of their profits with the low-revenue clubs.

They put off a vote on the matter until their next meeting Feb. 8-9, and the debate is likely to be spirited.

It's considered likely that the owners will approve the Browns' move because they don't want to prevent Modell from getting a lucrative deal in Baltimore, but passing a revised revenue-sharing plan will be much more difficult.

The debate on the revenue-sharing matter is tied to an extension of the current collective-bargaining agreement that recently was reached with the NFL Players Association.

"The perspective of the majority of the clubs is that an extension of this agreement without some enhanced revenue sharing would be a major mistake," commissioner Paul Tagliabue said yesterday.

Although a majority of clubs favor sharing more revenue, it will take 23 of 30 votes to get a new plan.

Leading the opposition will be Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, who makes about $20 million more than any other team.

"Revenue sharing was addressed six or seven months ago. I don't think any more revenue sharing is warranted," Jones said.

Last year, the owners passed a deal in which the formula for sharing visiting team revenue was changed to give a bigger cut -- up to $3 million a year -- to the low-revenue teams.

But Jones managed to prevent the league from including the home team's share of luxury-box revenue in the plan, and the low-revenue owners are concerned that it gives an unfair advantage to the high-revenue teams in the free-agency era.

Jones' $62 million payroll, for example, is higher than the operational income of some of the low-revenue teams such as the Cincinnati Bengals.

The difference between the haves and have nots has gotten worse because of the new stadium deals teams have gotten in Carolina, Jacksonville, St. Louis, Oakland and Baltimore.

That's why the league has come up with some revised revenue-sharing formulas, but hasn't settled on one.

"They're very complicated," said Bob Tisch, co-owner of the New York Giants.

The bottom line is that they'll take money out of Jones' pockets, and he doesn't like that idea.

Jones conceded that he's in the minority on the matter, but said, "It doesn't take but a minority [eight votes] to block the plan."

Bob Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, predicted Jones will change his mind.

"I think Jerry will support it in the end. Jerry's a smart man and it's in his interest to have a plan. Having the right plan is what's important," Kraft said.

The league and Jones are suing each other over Jones' marketing deals, and Tagliabue, without mentioning Jones or Deion Sanders, suggested that Sanders' $35 million contract has contributed to the alienation of the fans.

"You see salaries of $5 million, $10 million, $15 million, $35 million, and then the $35 million salary gets repeated every day in [Jones' and Sanders'] Pizza Hut ads. People are frustrated," he said.

"Many fans can't identify with [players making] $35 million to play football. Most can't even comprehend a number like that."

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