By Frank Orlich
Ever since the collective bargaining agreement was set to expire, fans began picking sides — players or owners. When the two groups decided to extend talks another day, fans threw their support for either the players union or for the owners. When talks extended a week, a line was drawn in the sand. And the fans that enjoy nothing more than long, languid days of sitting in front of a television for eight hours on Sundays realized that there may very well be a lockout next season. As Thursday rolled into Friday, the threat took a bump from “semi-serious” all the way up to “serious.” And on Friday, the unthinkable happened; the NFLPA decertified, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and both sides began to prepare for life without football.
This article will not pick a side. Far too often in a controversy like this, more time is spent figuring out who to blame rather than solving the problem at hand. Instead, I offer a conclusion that both sides are to blame, and that the real loser here is not the players or the owners, but the fans.
On one side, the player’s union is to blame. They’re the ones that left a deal on the table, and a pretty good one at that. The NFL offered to split the difference in disagreements over additional revenue, implement new year-round safety and health regulations and reduce the number of offseason workouts. They also agreed to maintain the current 16 game schedule, set up a fund of $82 million over the next two years for retired players and instill a rookie wage cap. This is a fair amount of benefits to offer the employees of any company, and in all honesty, it’s probably the best deal the NFLPA was ever going to see. However, certain bargaining points were left off the table.
And that is why on the other side, the NFL is to blame. The union has reason to wonder why the players should have to take a $1 billion pay cut despite the seemingly good health of professional football. And in a game like football, where careers end at the drop of a hat and contracts are not guaranteed, every dollar counts. Based on this, it seems more than reasonable that the owners should open their financial books to the NFLPA. After all, the union isn’t necessarily asking for more money, just more financial data.
This lockout is bad for everyone. The NFL brings in about $9 billion of revenue every year; that’s more than most countries. The Super Bowl and the NFL Playoffs attract abundant fans, help companies advertise and allow networks to promote their shows. How many times have you been reminded to watch “The Simpsons” or “Family Guy” later that night on FOX?
The NFL is much larger than its revenue or viewer statistics indicate. And rather than sitting down at the negotiating table, many big name players have upped the ante and sued the NFL, potentially causing a lengthy lawsuit.
I think what it comes down to is the union only has so much control. Most of the owners are rich beyond our ability to fathom. Many have revenue coming in from some other business, and although they’ll be hurt by the lockout, the players will surely feel its affects more.
Whether or not the union is morally right in their cause is irrelevant. At the end of the day, the union got a pretty good deal — probably the best deal they’re ever going to see, and they walked away. It’s called collective bargaining for a reason, and when the bigger, larger side concedes and agrees to meet you in the middle on most issues, you usually take it. I don’t know much, but I know biting from the hand that feeds you rarely works out.