Clark Hunt has represented the Chiefs and, in many ways, all small-market football teams throughout months of labor talks between the NFL and the NFLPA. From the very beginning of discussions, ensuring that the league maintains its competitive balance has been a priority for Hunt.
One of the most unique traits about the NFL as a whole – one that separates the league from other major sports leagues – is parity.
Last year’s Super Bowl champion represented the NFL’s smallest market (Green Bay). The year before, small-market New Orleans reigned champion over small-market foe Indianapolis. Pittsburgh, a perennial contender throughout NFL history, joins the list of small market teams competing on the big stage.
“It’s incredibly important for a team like the Kansas City Chiefs, that we have a Collective Bargaining Agreement that’s good for all 32 clubs,” Hunt said in the early stages of the NFL Lockout. “We don’t want a system that (loses parity) and we have some concerns that it has a potential to go that way.”
Following a wild 24 hours in Atlanta, at least one thing is clear - the proposed CBA effectively protects the league’s competitive balance.
“For the Kansas City Chiefs and the fans of the Chiefs, this is a deal that will allow us to compete,” Hunt explained late Thursday night. “Whether you are in a small, big or medium sized market does not matter. This deal will allow everyone to compete. I think it’s great for the National Football League, great for the players, great for the fans and most importantly great for the Kansas City Chiefs.”
In the aftermath of Thursday’s up-and-down journey, where NFL clubs voted 31-0 to ratify a new 10-year CBA and players retrained from voting on the proposal, the league’s competitive balance appears to be secure in any agreement going forward.
While the NFLPA takes time to review terms of the league’s proposed comprehensive agreement, issues affecting competitive balance are not likely to change. Both players and owners appear united in maintaining NFL parity.
“There are in fact a number of things in the deal that we believe will increase the ability for small-market teams to be productive, aggressive in free agency and be good teams,” Chiefs NFLPA player representative
“That means protecting this game, its competitive balance and even bringing it up where we see fit. There are absolutely things in that deal that improve the competition in the league and it’s not anything where we are going to see any huge discrepancies.”
Niswanger indicated that issues affecting competitive balance have already been agreed upon in principal and discussions going forward would not alter those pre-existing agreements.
Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy spoke on the topic as well, echoing comments made by both Hunt and Niswanger.
“All of the major deal points have been negotiated and agreed to,” Murphy told reporters in Atlanta. “There was certainly an agreement that revenue sharing would not be part of the collective bargaining process. It was an internal process that we spent time on today and were able to reach agreement among all 32 of the teams.
“To me, this is one of the cornerstones of the league is our revenue sharing — we share a very high percentage of our revenue as a league. As a result, we have tremendous competitive parity and balance. Quite honestly, it’s been one of the reasons why the Packers have been so successful historically is the combination of the revenue sharing system and the salary cap.”
From start to finish, Hunt and Murphy have played pivotal roles in negotiating on behalf of the NFL’s small-market franchises.
Through there looks to be plenty more in store for what could be another wild ride this weekend, one of Hunt’s primary goals heading into negotiations appears to be accomplished.
When a new deal is eventually agreed upon, the structure of balance looks to be a good one for Chiefs fans.