Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver was clearly angry that "operating profit" documents released to the public recently have created a misconception that may embitter fans in their support of the Jaguars and the NFL.
"The fan says there's a rich guy stuffing his pockets and he's gouging me for hot dogs. We aren't stuffing our pockets with money. We have invested a lot of money in doing what it takes to get to the Super Bowl," Weaver said in rebuttal to newspaper articles that claim the Jaguars realized $79 million in profit in the first five years of the team's history.
Weaver says those reports are incorrect, and he's angry that "incomplete" financial documents have been used to portray the Jaguars and the league in general as robber barons.
"Are we really making a lot of money? No," Weaver said.
Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis was permitted by the court to release the "operating profit" documents to the Los Angeles Times, which printed the material recently. Most fans understood the documents to be the actual bottom-line statements of the NFL's 31 teams, but that's far from the truth.
"Operating profit" statements are league material that allows each team to measure itself according to what other teams in the league are spending. They are non-specific statements that use each season's salary cap as the standard for player costs, but don't take into account "cash over cap," such as bonus money paid to players. The "operating profit" statements also don't include a team's debt service.
"The player costs showed that we spent over $242 million. The truth is we spent over $293 million," Weaver said of a $51 million difference that did not appear in newspaper reports.
During that same five-year period, 1995-99, the Jaguars also paid $23 million of interest cost on their debt service. That money does not appear in the report.
Weaver's reaction to the release of the information is typical of the league's other owners. All of them have castigated Davis for presenting information he knew would be misleading. Of course, Davis is currently involved in a law suit against the NFL, claiming he's entitled to damages because the league deprived him of the rights to the Los Angeles market.
"It's totally unacceptable that the courts allowed these documents to be released. I don't have a problem with people seeing financials, but I have a problem with people seeing something incomplete," Weaver said. "Al did it for his own self-serving reasons. He's trying to convince a jury there's a conspiracy against him."
Davis has long been the league's rebel, and he has been victorious in his legal battles against the league. If he wins this most recent case, he will force his league partners to reach into their pockets, again.
"The other owners do operate that what's good for the league is good for all of us. Al hasn't operated that way. It's about what's good for Al Davis," Weaver said.
Other owners have been even stronger in their rebukes. In Tuesday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Steelers owner Dan Rooney was quoted as saying Davis is a "lying creep."
Anger aside, Weaver and the league's other owners are now saddled with the task of portraying their businesses in a more accurate light. Public perception is at stake, and that's most important to Weaver, who must involve local government to a great degree in the presentation of Super Bowl XXXIX, which Jacksonville will host in Feb. of 2005.
Have the "operating profit" stories damaged the Jaguars' image? "I think so. It's going to be hard to get people to understand," Weaver said.
Vic Ketchman is the Senior Editor of Jaguars Inside Report, the official team newspaper of the Jacksonville Jaguars. One-year subscriptions may be purchased by calling 1-888-846-5247.