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Volume 23 No. 29
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Gilbert would seek 50-50 revenue split with league

Sean Gilbert, who is running for the position of NFL Players Association executive director, wants a 50-50 split of revenue for the players with the league, a significant leap from the 53-47 percentage advantage the owners currently enjoy.

The comments, made by Gilbert earlier this month, mark the first time Gilbert has revealed the revenue split he would seek. It’s a split that, if implemented, would result in hundreds of millions of dollars annually shifting to the players.

Gilbert is running an unprecedented campaign against a sitting NFLPA leader, having spent two years and thousands of hours arguing to players that the labor deal incumbent DeMaurice Smith cut will shift $10 billion to owners from players over its decade-long term.

The NFLPA has declined to comment on Gilbert’s math. At a press conference before the Super Bowl, Smith said there is more to consider in the collective-bargaining agreement than just the salary cap, which has grown modestly relative to overall league revenue since 2011.

In 2011, the cap was $121 million. It rose to $133 million last year and has been projected at $145 million for this year. By comparison, league revenue has gone from $8.5 billion in 2010, before the new CBA, to an expected $11.5 billion this year.

The cap, however, doesn’t tell the whole story, as the NFLPA notes. The players’ share of revenue includes benefits, which are rising at a greater pace than the cap — nearing $30 million annually a club, up from a low-to-mid $20 million range before the CBA.

Gilbert’s pursuit of a new deal for the players and his proposed 50-50 revenue split draw from his contention that he can undo the current CBA, which has no opt-out provision, by proving a collusion claim. The details of the claim will be distributed to players and agents the day he presents to players at the NFLPA election in Maui, Hawaii, in March, he said.

He declined to divulge those details now because that would trigger a 30-day period in the CBA under which the players would have to file a lawsuit, he said. He is believed to be working with two outside law firms, but he declined to identify his advisers.

Gilbert’s challenge for the NFLPA leadership position is unique when considering the post’s history. Smith was elected in 2009 after the death in 2008 of Gene Upshaw, the union’s executive director for 25 years. Upshaw’s re-election in that time was largely a formality. Smith in turn was unanimously re-elected in 2012.