NFL: Let The Lockout Begin?
The worst nightmare of football fans across the country seems to be unfolding before our very eyes. As we all know, the collective bargaining agreement between the players’ union and the NFL was set to expire. Both sides had been negotiating and had extended the deadline for the CBA twice. By the end of business Friday, no agreement had been reached and the players refused to extend the deadline anymore. The NFL had planned to begin a lockout at 12 AM Saturday if no agreement was reached. The NFL Players’ Association chose to decertify (meaning that it’s no longer recognized as an NFL entity and thus acts strictly in the interests of players), a move which allows it to file suit against the league. That’s exactly what the group, now a trade union, did. A class-action, anti-trust lawsuit was filed against the NFL yesterday, including big names such as Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees among others. Earlier this morning, the lockout was officially announced.
How did we get here?
First of all, $9 billion in revenue had to be fairly divided between the two groups. This hasn’t been a problem the past few years, but with the agreement expiring, the owners decided that they were losing money and wanted a larger share of the profits. They had also discussed adding games to the season, a move that would earn them more revenue in ticket sales and television dollars. Players, on the other hand, were not interested in playing for less money, especially when a series of rules changes seemed to be forcing fines (and threats of retirement) on them.
Later in the talks, the players asked for audited financial information from every team in the league for the past 10 years. The reason, of course, is simple. You say you’re losing money, prove it. Can’t blame them for that one. Anyone who takes less money for any reason should be as informed, if possible, before agreeing to it. This move ruffled quite a few feathers in the front offices, though.
The deal offered by the league before talks broke down and we moved into this early litigation phase was as follows:
- Maintaining the 16 regular-season games and four preseason games for at least two years, with any switch to 18 games down the road being negotiable.
- Financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that isn’t even shared with the teams. That was proposed by the NFL this week, and rejected by the union, which began insisting in May 2009 for a complete look at the books of all 32 clubs.
- Instituting a rookie wage scale through which money saved would be paid to veterans and retired players.
- Creating new year-round health and safety rules.
- Establishing a fund for retired players, with $82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years.
From the outside looking in, I have to say that those points sound pretty good. Of course, I’m not involved in what goes on behind closed doors and there is probably more to the story. I do have to say, we should have all seen this coming. It seems as if the cornerstone of negotiation, compromise, is a long lost practice. In politics as well as in sports, people want what they want and have no interest in choosing chief interests and leaving other options on the table. With both sides looking to have it completely their way, we had no choice but to end up where we are.
Guess who now stands out as the voice of reason in all of this negotiation and litigation?
The one and only Chad Ochocinco. When news of the decertification hit, he was treating about 100 fans to dinner. He responded to the news with the following:
“I don’t have time to be arguing. With the owners and us as millionaires, there shouldn’t even be an argument.. It disgusts me, it’s really an unfortunate situation. But it is what it is. I am on the fans’ side. I want football, but to be focused on an argument over revenue is silly. We got people out here struggling, and there’s no reason a deal shouldn’t have gotten done.”
We couldn’t have said it any better.