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President Donald Trump took another shot at the National Football League, the latest in his ongoing Twitter war against the NFL over some players taking a knee during the National Anthem to protest police mistreatment of African-Americans.
On Aug. 10, Trump tweeted, ".....Be happy, be cool! A football game, that fans are paying soooo much money to watch and enjoy, is no place to protest. Most of that money goes to the players anyway. Find another way to protest. Stand proudly for your National Anthem or be Suspended Without Pay!"
Is it true that "most of that money goes to the players," as Trump said? As it turns out, players do not make most of the money, although the players’ percentage is not far below 50 percent. (The White House did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)
The revenue split between the players and the owners is negotiated through a collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement was negotiated in 2011, and it will be in force through 2021.
According to the NFL summary of the current agreement, the "player share must average at least 47 percent for the 10-year term of the agreement."
When we checked with the NFL Players Association, the players’ union, they confirmed that the current players’ share is 48.5 percent of all league revenue, including local revenue and media deals. Spokeswoman Erin Hayes added that the percentage "fluctuates between 47 percent and 48.5 percent, but right now it’s 48.5 percent." (The NFL did not respond to inquiries.)
The NFL doesn’t release overall financial data, but media reports have estimated what the league’s 32 teams make by using data released by the Green Bay Packers, a publicly owned team that is required to release financial information annually.
In 2017, the NFL ownership kept a little more than $8 billion in revenue for themselves, while the players took a little less than $8 billion, according to such accounts. The owners’ share was up by 4.9 percent, a rise largely attributed to a new, more generous contract for Thursday Night Football broadcasts.
This is a substantial percentage, but it doesn’t meet even the most generous definition of "most," which would be anything higher than 50 percent.
Trump’s statement "is wrong. Players do not receive most of the money," said David Berri, a Southern Utah University economist and a past president of the North American Association of Sports Economics.
Daniel Kaplan, who covers the NFL for SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, agreed that Trump’s assertion is incorrect and even suggested that the 47 percent figure may be high.
Kaplan has previously written that the NFL’s revenue figures "are incomplete, as the league does not share every penny with the players, shielding hundreds of millions of dollars in areas such as stadium finance."
Trump said, "Most of that money (made by the NFL) goes to the players."
According to the collective bargaining agreement now in force, the players are getting 48.5 percent of revenues, a number that can’t average less than 47 percent in the 10-year life of the agreement. That’s not peanuts, but it doesn’t meet even the most generous definition of "most."
We rate the statement Mostly False.
Donald Trump, tweet, Aug. 10, 2018
NFL, "NFL clubs approve comprehensive agreement," July 21, 2011
Reuters, "Report: NFL teams' revenue share topped $8 billion in 2017," July 17, 2018
SportsBusiness Daily, "NFL revenue reaches $14B, fueled by media," March 6, 2017
NBC Sports, "The CBA in a nutshell," July 25, 2011
Email interview with Erin Hayes, spokeswoman for the NFL Players Association, Aug. 13, 2018
Email interview with David Berri, Southern Utah University economist and past president of the North American Association of Sports Economics, Aug. 10, 2018
Email interview with Daniel Kaplan, reporter covering the NFL for SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily, Aug. 13, 2018
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