CHICAGO -- For a wheeler-dealer like Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, $2 million is not usually a large sum of money.
Except, that is, when the NFL owners are asking him to pay it into a revenue-sharing fund.
The owners spent much of their meeting time yesterday debating a modest revenue-sharing proposal that would create a fund ranging from $6 to $18 million. The richer teams would pay into the fund to help the low-revenue teams.
Although the details were still being debated, Jones might have to pay no more than $2 million into the fund.
But that's $2 million more than Jones wants to pay.
Jones compared the idea to communism.
"There's no middle ground on revenue sharing," Jones said. "Revenue sharing was a system that built Russia."
Meanwhile, some of the low-revenue teams think that the high-revenue clubs aren't paying enough into the fund.
The owners, who couldn't agree on a plan yesterday, will continue to talk about the issue today. The reason the issue is so important is that revenue sharing is tied to an extension of the collective bargaining agreement.
The NFL Players Association wants more revenue sharing so that the low-income teams can compete for free agents.
If the owners pass the collective bargaining agreement without revenue sharing, the union could reject the whole plan.
It's also important because the free agency signing period starts next week. Before the owners start structuring contracts for free agents, they want to know if 1999 is going to be the last year of the old contract as an uncapped year or whether it'll be capped as part of the extension.
Taylor Smith, the vice president of the Atlanta Falcons, said, "The overriding sentiment is that we've got to get an extension before the free agency period starts."
Harold Henderson, the vice president for labor relations for the league, still held out hope that 23 owners could be convinced today to go along with a revenue-sharing plan.
Noting the proposal is only one-half of one percent of the total revenue in the league, Henderson said, "There's still work to do. It's a large eduction project for these owners [to convince them to vote for it]."
Bob Tisch, the co-owner of the New York Giants, also held out hope that a proposal could pass today with some compromise.