Summer has officially arrived, and I want to talk on the sport that’s on everyone’s mind. Football! All off-season we’ve been hearing about the dispute between the owners and the players, and the lockout that followed. I feel like I should weigh in on this issue. Or at least on how terribly the current NFL labor situation has aged Commissioner Roger Goodell (above). Anyway, It’s time to Lockout with your co– ahem… It’s time to discuss the NFL Lockout!
What’s the Deal With the NFL lockout?
When it comes to the NFL, the players union and the owners have to come together every five years to sign a new collective bargaining agreement. In simplest terms, the CBA is a set of rules that regulates working conditions. Everyone comes together to come up with the set of rules that works best for both owners and players, the union signs, the owners sign and everyone has some punch and pie. Five years later, they do it all over again. Unless someone brings a different snack, or one of the parties gets greedy.
This time around, it’s hard to tell whether the owners or the players are the ones being greedy. It all depends on who you listen to. The owners, it seems, are unhappy with the agreement they signed in 2006, and want to change the way revenue is split up between them and the union. Currently, the players get 59.6% of the league revenue, which simply does not agree with owners such as Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, Pat Bowlen and Jerry Richardson, who recently made some very high-risk investments in fancy new stadiums. They also agreed on a revenue sharing program where the league’s top 15 earning franchises subsidize the 17 teams that earn the least. In 2011, the owners want to swing the power back in their direction and, according to Richardson “Take back our league.” The owners also feel that, last time around, then Commissioner Paul Tagliabue sold them on this bad deal because he was retiring and did not want to tarnish his legacy with a nasty labor dispute. On top of that, they claim they are, in some cases, hemorrhaging money because of the terms in the current CBA. In essence, they feel like they got screwed and they’re not happy about it.
The players union feels that the lockout is about leverage. The owners want more money, and they have the resources on hand to lock the players out. The owners have $4.5 billion in guaranteed revenue from television contracts. That, and the fact that they don’t have to pay salaries, puts them almost $10 billion in the black if they lock the players out. They might not make any money from the concessions, merchandise or ticket sales, but they do OK. The players, meanwhile don’t get their salaries or even health care during the lockout, not to mention the money they would get from the non-existent league revenue. Therein lies the leverage. The players have to risk everything if they want to disagree with the ownership and fight for what they want. The other part of the stance of the players union is about beefing up their health care and benefits, as well as the health care and pension benefits for retired NFL players. Don’t get this twisted though, it eventually all comes back to the money. They don’t want to take a lower percentage of the revenue, plain and simple.
So Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?
To quote the Simpsons: “In a way, we’re both winners. But, in a more accurate way, Lisa’s the winner.” Both sides have a point. The owners feel like they were swindled into the current agreement and want their power (and money) back. Meanwhile, the players are just as greedy, but they are hiding behind the fact that they want better benefits and health care and better care for retired players.
It’s hard to really fall on one side of the argument, but I am siding with the players. The owners, whether they feel they were misled by Paul Tagliabue or not, agreed 30-2 to the collective bargaining agreement back in 2006. They have billions of dollars in revenue from television contracts. They make millions more from revenue, even though their share is only 40%. Look, they were already old and rich to begin with when they acquired their teams. You don’t go from owning a bodega on the corner to owning an NFL team. You have to start with a ton of money already. You probably own some kind of multi-million or billion dollar company. This makes it very hard to sympathize with the owners, especially since they won’t open their books and show us the losses they allege. Also, if they’re losing money… part of me kind of snickers and says they probably deserve it for someone they stepped on on their way to the top, right?
The players, on the other hand, have nothing guaranteed. The benefits and pension plans for NFL players are simply terrible. While there have been some improvements in these conditions in recent years, it is still very difficult to be an ex-NFL player. Once you’re out of the league, you get some benefits (if you played long enough) but they only last for so long. Once they run out, that’s it. These conditions, without question, need to be improved. Until they are, why should the players union give up any of the money they receive from league revenue? They need all the money they can get! Are they greedy? Sure, but the owners are far greedier, and the players are the ones who put asses in the seats. No one’s coming to see Jerry Jones sit in his luxury box, or Bob Kraft and his blue shirts with white collars and red ties. People go because the players put on the best show in sports. They give everything they have every week and put their bodies on the line because they love to play the game (and because they get paid handsomely to do it). Football gets played at neighborhood parks every day. If owners didn’t exist, and billions of dollars weren’t involved, there would still be football in those neighborhood parks. Without players, however, there’s no football. No one goes to the park to play “owner.”
Look, whoever is really to blame, I just hope everyone can come together soon, because I like watching football. It is America’s favorite sport (sorry baseball, I still love you), it’s entertaining, and it’s a great reason to get out of doing stuff on a Sunday (sorry wives and girlfriends). Also, I’ve already created my Yahoo Fantasy Football league… I want my chance to win $500 (greed strikes again!).
OK I’ll wrap this up now, because my soap box is getting wobbly and I’m afraid I might fall and twist an ankle. The health care benefits at Jobu’s Rum are simply not good enough for me to risk such an injury. Maybe I’ll go on strike… although then the owner might lock me out… although I am the owner… can I lock myself out? It’s just crazy enough to work, and makes about as much sense as this NFL lockout. Maybe someone will give me millions to whine about some day…
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