SUPER BOWL XXII : A Game Most Everyone Lost : Strike and Lawsuits Leave Only Seven NFL Teams Making Money

Times Assistant Sports Editor

The National Football League players' strike of 1987, soon to be forgotten amid a week of Super Bowl hype, had a staggering impact on the league's financial picture.

Data obtained by The Times indicate that the strike cost the owners more than $104 million in potential income. The players' losses, all from unpaid salaries, total $84 million.

In addition, the strike, coupled with two costly lawsuits, left only 7 of 28 NFL teams as moneymakers. Every NFL team made less money in 1987 than in 1986.

The financial records of NFL teams are private, with the exception of the publicly held Green Bay Packers. Even team owners don't have access to each other's financial records. The information used by The Times is a compilation of published financial facts and internal reports of the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Assn. When representatives from both the owners and players were asked about the findings, neither group disputed them.

Several other revealing facts emerged in the study:

--The four most profitable teams (Indianapolis, Miami, Minnesota and the Rams) have all changed stadiums in recent times. All the teams greatly improved their financial outlook by negotiating better deals at their new location.

--The two least profitable teams (New York Jets and the Raiders) have the two highest payrolls in the NFL. The third least profitable team (San Francisco) has the fourth-highest payroll, and the fourth least profitable team (Seattle) has the sixth-highest payroll.

--There are only eight teams with a better financial picture than the St. Louis Cardinals, a team awaiting league approval for a move to Phoenix. The Cardinals showed a loss of $1.2 million and, were it not for payments on two NFL lawsuits, would have turned a profit.

--Only 11 teams would have lost money were the NFL not responsible for a $30-million debt ($20 million in damages, $10 million in legal fees) from losing a lawsuit to the L.A. Coliseum Commission and $26 million in legal fees directly tied to the United States Football League lawsuit. The USFL was awarded $3 for its trouble in its suit against the NFL. The Raiders were the only team not aligned with the NFL in either suit and did not pay any of the $56 million. Instead, the costs were split 27 ways.

--Only 6 of the 28 teams would have lost money if, in addition to the lawsuits, the television networks had not requested a $40 million ($1.4 million per team) rebate for the strike games. The NFL must also give back $20 million next season toward meeting the total $60-million rebate.

--Los Angeles' two teams have a strikingly different financial picture. The Rams turned a profit of $1.2 million, while the Raiders lost almost $5.5 million. This can mostly be attributed to the lack of luxury boxes and a cut of concessions for the Raiders. Of course, poor on-field performances kept each team's attendance down.

Al LoCasale, executive assistant of the Raiders, when asked about his team's grim finances this season said: "We are not a public corporation. Our financial dealings are our own." John Shaw, vice president of finance for the Rams, does not talk to the media.

These projected losses league-wide are strictly on paper and do not take tax incentives into consideration. Most of the team owners have other businesses and large financial bases. These losses are not an indication that any individual team or the league is in any financial trouble.

In fact, seven owners were listed in Forbes magazine in 1987 as among the richest individuals in America. Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the Washington Redskins, and W.C. Ford of the Detroit Lions have a net worth of more than $1 billion.

However, one doesn't own an NFL team by misjudging potential losses. But, the immediate financial impact caused by the strike was greater than either the owners or players anticipated. The money the owners saved by not paying salaries of union players was almost equal to the amount of money the strike teams and expanded post-strike rosters cost.

The strike teams had added transportation and housing costs that regular teams would not have received. When the 24-day strike was over, the NFL teams expanded from 45- to 50-player rosters, adding significant costs.

The $104-million loss by the owners from the strike was based on their estimated 1986 gate earnings ($306 million) and a projected increase of 8% to $330 million. Their actual gate in 1987 was $286 million, resulting in a $44-million loss. The television rebate of $60 million pushed their losses to $104 million.

The $84 million lost by the players was simply their collective salaries for four games.

"Both the owners and players are going to feel the financial impact for several more years," said Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFLPA.

"The long-range effect is what we have to judge. They (the owners) turned off more people (to pro football) than in the past. It will take several years to determine how much this hurt us."

Upshaw did give credit to the television networks for protecting themselves against a strike.

"They (the networks) were prepared," Upshaw said. "They made sure in the last contract to have themselves and their sponsors protected against something that just shouldn't have happened. Regardless, it never should have come to this. I certainly didn't want a strike."

Jack Donlan, executive director of the Management Council, did not return phone calls to The Times.

However, John Jones, a spokesman for the Management Council, when told the specifics of these financial findings, said that it just backed up what the owners have been saying--that an NFL franchise is not automatically profitable.

There is no real basis for comparison between this strike and other professional sports strikes. The most recent, in 1985 by the major league baseball players, was resolved after two days and 25 games, or roughly 1% of the games were affected. Most of those games were replayed. The only immediate effect in that strike was in lost concession revenue.

NFL team expenditures break down into two major categories--player and non-player costs.

The average salary in the NFL, according to a survey by the NFLPA, is $211,506. This season there were 1,683 players. According to the NFL Management Council, it costs a team $67,900 in benefits and incentives for each player.

One major factor for profitability is player costs. The league runs from a low average of $164,989 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a high of $285,653 for the Raiders. However, because of guaranteed contracts, players on injured reserve and other personnel decisions, the number of players on the payroll varies for each team. It ranged from 50 players for Cincinnati and Minnesota to a high of 69 by Washington.

The NFL Management Council estimates that a team averages $11.2 million a year in non-player costs. These figures don't vary greatly, although it is estimated that they are increasing at a rate of 9% a year.

Player salaries are projected to increase 5% a year because of the impending death of the USFL. However, the USFL caused jumps of 25%, 25% and 19% between 1983 and 1985.

Teams make money from a wider group of factors. The most important of those is network television. Each team received $17 million from the networks but was forced to give back $1.4 million because of the strike. This year NFL teams received a total of $436 million from network television.

According to an NFL estimate, most teams receive about $1 million each from local broadcasting. Two exceptions are the Raiders and San Francisco, which have contracts near $2 million.

The second-largest source of income is attendance. This season, the gross gate revenue approaches $286 million. The actual figure is slightly higher, but The Times' calculations did not take no-shows into account. Some teams would not make public no-show counts or refunds during the strike games. This added margin of profit, however, is offset by complimentary tickets given to players, fans and charities.

Attendance is not a 28-way split (until the playoffs) as other sources of money are with the NFL. Each team gets to keep 65% of its gate receipts, while the away team gets the remaining 35%.

Another lucrative source of income is luxury-box seating. This money is kept entirely by the home team. Some cities, in an attempt to lure teams, are designing stadiums with large numbers of these specialty seats in order to promise a greater profit.

Only Dallas, Green Bay, the Raiders, Seattle and Washington do not receive any money from luxury boxes. Dallas has luxury boxes, but the money is turned over to the stadium. Seattle is in the process of building boxes; and, with the Raiders' proposed move to Irwindale, they will have these profitable seats.

Only 12 teams get any money from parking and concessions. Of the seven teams that made money, five of them (Denver and Minnesota are the exceptions) all get a cut of parking and concessions. In the case of Indianapolis and Miami, both of which get almost all that revenue, it makes the teams enormously profitable.

There is a final category of miscellaneous income, which includes interest from season tickets, a licensing fee from NFL Properties for use of team names and logos, advertising from Pro Magazine and other small income-producing opportunities. The NFLPA estimates that each team gets slightly more than $1 million per team in that area.

There is no provable relationship between the amount of money earned and the number of wins. The fact that three non-playoff teams (Miami, Philadelphia and the Rams) made money in 1987 helps bear this out.

There is less discrepancy between the amount of money spent and the number of wins. Instead teams reach for a middle ground, whereby they are buying the most amount of wins for the least amount of money.

In the 1986 season, for example, the New York Giants, the eventual Super Bowl champions, paid the fewest amount of dollars ($655,714 a win) in player salaries for each regular-season win. Washington was second ($667,600), Chicago third ($684,682) and Cincinnati fourth ($751,500).

The 1987 season showed a similar correlation, although the dollar amounts are quite different. Because of the strike, teams paid more players more money. The 1986 figures were also based on the standard 45-man roster.

New Orleans proved to be the most win-effective for their money, paying $993,934 per win. Denver was second, San Francisco third and Washington fourth. Interestingly, Washington and San Francisco were big financial losers, again erasing any tie between success on and off the field.

Both the Rams and the Raiders were less efficient than last season. The Rams dropping from 6th best to 17th and the Raiders from 19th to 27th.

THE PLUSES AND MINUSES OF THE NFL INCOME

Team Home Att. Home gate share Away gate share Atlanta 235,829 2,605,600 1,893,400 Buffalo 437,187 4,262,700 2,571,640 Chicago 459,192 5,074,160 2,637,650 Cincinnati 361,007 4,341,030 2,055,510 Cleveland* 509,271 5,084,850 2,158,770 Dallas 344,603 5,151,770 2,877,750 Denver* 502,435 7,510,880 2,285,490 Detroit 109,758 1,911,150 2,507,180 Green Bay 379,033 3,818,430 1,845,990 Houston 259,375 2,824,220 2,645,020 Indianapolis* 435,877 5,182,200 2,166,600 Kansas City 282,018 3,116,100 2,598,200 Raiders 360,219 4,682,600 2,801,650 Rams* 331,690 4,204,300 2,055,130 Miami* 388,959 6,574,100 2,615,700 Minnesota* 375,340 4,391,010 2,057,560 New England 374,302 5,135,960 2,979,590 New Orleans 421,073 4,379,440 2,312,240 N.Y. Giants 432,433 5,340,140 2,270,270 N.Y. Jets 352,895 4,587,700 2,408,660 Philadelphia* 432,739 5,090,700 2,135,800 Pittsburgh 346,314 3,518,230 2,345,440 San Diego 302,045 3,906,370 1,931,140 San Francisco 356,661 4,771,580 2,360,300 Seattle 409,598 4,925,440 1,844,080 St. Louis 194,751 2,532,400 2,236,050 Tampa Bay 318,636 2,938,610 1,967,130 Washington 341,317 4,880,590 2,833,140

Team Regular season gate Atlanta 4,499,000 Buffalo 6,834,340 Chicago 7,711,810 Cincinnati 6,396,540 Cleveland* 7,243,620 Dallas 8,029,520 Denver* 9,796,370 Detroit 4,418,330 Green Bay 5,664,420 Houston 5,469,230 Indianapolis* 7,348,800 Kansas City 5,714,300 Raiders 7,484,250 Rams* 6,259,420 Miami* 9,189,800 Minnesota* 6,448,570 New England 8,115,550 New Orleans 6,691,680 N.Y. Giants 7,610,410 N.Y. Jets 6,996,360 Philadelphia* 7,226,500 Pittsburgh 5,863,670 San Diego 5,837,510 San Francisco 7,131,870 Seattle 6,769,520 St. Louis 4,768,450 Tampa Bay 4,905,740 Washington 7,713,730

* Shaded teams turned a profit in the 1987-88 season

INCOME

Team Luxury box revenue Total gate receipts Atlanta 300,000 6,957,700 Buffalo 1,125,000 10,118,040 Chicago 1,500,000 11,370,510 Cincinnati 80,000 8,635,240 Cleveland* 2,600,000 12,002,320 Dallas 0 10,188,220 Denver* 1,020,000 12,975,070 Detroit 1,400,000 7,977,030 Green Bay 0 7,823,120 Houston 700,000 8,327,930 Indianapolis* 4,500,000 14,007,500 Kansas City 1,200,000 9,073,000 Raiders 0 9,642,950 Rams* 3,400,000 11,818,120 Miami* 4,000,000 15,348,500 Minnesota* 3,300,000 11,907,270 New England 1,700,000 11,974,250 New Orleans 1,100,000 9,905,380 N.Y. Giants 2,000,000 11,769,110 N.Y. Jets 660,000 9,815,060 Philadelphia* 680,000 10,065,200 Pittsburgh 693,000 8,715,370 San Diego 2,900,000 10,896,210 San Francisco 64,000 9,354,570 Seattle 0 8,928,220 St. Louis 750,000 7,677,150 Tampa Bay 1,700,000 8,764,440 Washington 0 9,872,430

Team Concessions/parking Network TV Atlanta 0 15,600,000 Buffalo 1,093,000 15,600,000 Chicago 0 15,600,000 Cincinnati 0 15,600,000 Cleveland* 397,250 15,600,000 Dallas 620,280 15,600,000 Denver* 0 15,600,000 Detroit 0 15,600,000 Green Bay 0 15,600,000 Houston 0 15,600,000 Indianapolis* 2,615,400 15,600,000 Kansas City 846,000 15,600,000 Raiders 0 15,600,000 Rams* 829,250 15,600,000 Miami* 2,334,000 15,600,000 Minnesota* 0 15,600,000 New England 0 15,600,000 New Orleans 0 15,600,000 N.Y. Giants 0 15,600,000 N.Y. Jets 0 15,600,000 Philadelphia* 259,600 15,600,000 Pittsburgh 1,038,900 15,600,000 San Diego 755,000 15,600,000 San Francisco 0 15,600,000 Seattle 0 15,600,000 St. Louis 487,000 15,600,000 Tampa Bay 605,340 15,600,000 Washington 0 15,600,000

* Shaded teams turned a profit in the 1987-88 season

INCOME

Team Local TV/radio Misc. revenue Total club revenue Atlanta 1,000,000 1,092,000 24,649,700 Buffalo 1,000,000 1,092,000 28,903,040 Chicago 1,000,000 1,092,000 29,062,510 Cincinnati 1,000,000 1,092,000 26,327,240 Cleveland* 1,000,000 1,153,000 30,152,580 Dallas 1,000,000 1,092,000 30,667,070 Denver* 1,000,000 1,092,000 28,500,500 Detroit 1,000,000 1,092,000 25,669,030 Green Bay 1,000,000 1,092,000 25,515,120 Houston 1,000,000 1,092,000 26,019,930 Indianapolis* 1,000,000 1,092,000 34,314,900 Kansas City 1,000,000 1,092,000 27,611,000 Raiders 2,000,000 1,092,000 28,334,950 Rams* 1,000,000 1,092,000 30,339,370 Miami* 1,000,000 1,092,000 35,374,500 Minnesota* 1,000,000 1,092,000 29,599,270 New England 1,000,000 1,092,000 29,606,250 New Orleans 1,000,000 1,092,000 27,642,380 N.Y. Giants 1,000,000 1,092,000 29,461,110 N.Y. Jets 1,000,000 1,092,000 27,507,060 Philadelphia* 1,000,000 1,092,000 28,016,800 Pittsburgh 1,000,000 1,092,000 27,446,270 San Diego 1,000,000 1,092,000 29,343,210 San Francisco 2,000,000 1,092,000 28,046,570 Seattle 1,000,000 1,092,000 26,620,220 St. Louis 1,000,000 1,092,000 25,856,150 Tampa Bay 1,000,000 1,092,000 27,061,780 Washington 1,000,000 1,092,000 27,564,430

* Shaded teams turned a profit in the 1987-88 season

EXPENDITURES

Team Player cost Total costs Atlanta 15,770,568 29,044,568 Buffalo 20,200,578 33,474,578 Chicago 17,456,684 30,730,684 Cincinnati 14,453,500 27,727,500 Cleveland* 16,733,580 30,007,580 Dallas 19,272,282 32,546,282 Denver* 14,761,756 28,035,756 Detroit 15,251,441 28,525,441 Green Bay 15,761,536 29,035,536 Houston 15,039,336 28,313,336 Indianapolis* 15,576,048 28,850,048 Kansas City 16,625,733 29,899,733 Raiders 22,627,392 33,827,392 Rams* 15,802,265 29,076,265 Miami* 16,969,440 30,243,440 Minnesota* 12,924,000 26,198,000 New England 17,762,220 31,036,220 New Orleans 15,729,616 29,003,616 N.Y. Giants 17,779,960 31,053,960 N.Y. Jets 20,236,242 33,510,242 Philadelphia* 14,272,089 27,546,089 Pittsburgh 15,664,911 28,938,911 San Diego 17,974,296 31,248,296 San Francisco 19,857,360 33,131,360 Seattle 18,268,114 31,542,114 St. Louis 13,865,580 27,139,580 Tampa Bay 14,672,007 27,946,007 Washington 17,635,371 30,909,371

* Shaded teams turned a profit in the 1987-88 season

TOTAL

Team Profit/loss Atlanta -4,394,868 Buffalo -4,571,538 Chicago -1,668,174 Cincinnati -1,400,260 Cleveland* +145,000 Dallas -1,879,212 Denver* +464,744 Detroit -2,856,411 Green Bay -3,520,416 Houston -2,293,406 Indianapolis* +5,464,852 Kansas City -2,288,733 Raiders -5,492,442 Rams* +1,263,105 Miami* +5,131,060 Minnesota* +3,151,270 New England -1,429,970 New Orleans -1,361,236 N.Y. Giants -1,592,850 N.Y. Jets -6,003,182 Philadelphia* +470,711 Pittsburgh -1,492,641 San Diego -1,905,086 San Francisco -5,084,790 Seattle -4,921,894 St. Louis -1,283,430 Tampa Bay -884,227 Washington -3,344,941

* Shaded teams turned a profit in the 1987-88 season

1987 AVERAGE EARNINGS BY POSITION

(1986 Figures in Parentheses)

ALL PLAYERS STARTERS Avg. Avg. Avg. Avg. Position No. Base Salary No. Base Salary Quarterback 94 $340,438 $385,929 28 $557,499 $613,830 (78) (321,160) (324,640) (29) (438,325) (460,120) Running Back 187 197,533 225,264 53 318,386 347,952 (170) (183,390) (221,680) (53) (272,145) (317,395) Wide Receiver 177 170,646 197,848 54 279,779 306,185 (166) (177,110) (199,675) (57) (250,805) (267,745) Tight End 95 163,999 170,486 28 278,107 248,535 (96) (152,060) (167,390) (28) (234,500) (244,965) Offensive Line 306 182,610 197,264 135 250,479 264,971 (283) (176,185) (199,515) (141) (217,700) (227,425) Defensive Line 220 200,315 230,509 88 278,184 302,761 (210) (192,300) (225,935) (89) (260,985) (300,260) Linebacker 271 181,746 199,569 104 261,305 272,453 (246) (174,920) (190,580) (107) (219,770) (217,945) Defensive Back 277 169,817 192,435 112 236,665 255,810 (259) (166,390) (178,510) (113) (212,995) (220,765) Punter 27 117,805 123,157 (29) (113,300) (109,595) Kicker 29 152,870 157,224 (32) (149,610) (165,380)

Average salary is the average base plus any signing, reporting and roster bonuses plus any deferred money minus any current deferrals.

THE PRICE OF VICTORY

Avg. Avg. Price Eff.* Team Record Player Salary Starter Salary Per Win Ranking Atlanta 3-12-0 $186,464 $230,090 $3,853,589 28 Buffalo 7-8-0 224,862 399,720 2,216,496 19 Chicago 11-4-0 227,976 321,170 1,222,780 6 Cincinnati 4-11-0 221,170 274,840 2,764,625 24 Cleveland 10-5-0 215,720 281,812 1,272,748 8 Dallas 7-8-0 219,746 348,652 2,103,283 18 Denver 10-4-1 174,096 272,865 1,061,985 2 Detroit 4-11-0 190,599 207,068 2,811,335 25 Green Bay 5-9-1 178,374 238,532 2,283,187 20 Houston 9-6-0 195,948 195,722 1,241,004 7 Indianapolis 9-6-0 205,364 310,437 1,300,638 9 Kansas City 4-11-0 204,953 267,060 3,125,533 26 Raiders 5-10-0 285,653 408,379 3,656,358 27 Rams 6-9-0 199,935 246,041 1,966,027 17 Miami 8-7-0 214,924 294,670 1,611,930 14 Minnesota 8-7-0 190,580 205,239 1,191,125 5 New England 8-7-0 228,137 307,836 1,711,027 15 New Orleans 12-3-0 212,986 267,173 993,934 1 N.Y. Giants 6-9-0 255,372 308,695 2,340,910 21 N.Y. Jets 6-9-0 258,491 337,718 2,671,073 23 Philadelphia 7-8-0 182,487 238,253 1,485,965 12 Pittsburgh 8-7-0 206,923 289,673 1,474,326 11 San Diego 8-7-0 222,008 290,173 1,720,562 16 San Francisco 13-2-0 224,120 263,842 1,172,320 3 Seattle 9-6-0 226,747 359,444 1,562,034 13 St. Louis 7-8-0 188,870 267,708 1,456,997 10 Tampa Bay 4-11-0 164,989 218,775 2,598,576 22 Washington 11-4-0 199,235 308,250 1,177,297 4

* Rating the team that spends the least money for wins.

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