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NFL Lockout: What’s Really Going On

Posted By Michael Waterloo On Mar 3 2011 @ 7:08 pm In Pittsburgh | 1 Comment

The rumors have been swirling for a long time now and they are officially becoming a reality.  On Friday evening, thanks to a last minute 24-hour extension,  the NFL will in all likelihood be in a lockout as the current league collective bargaining agreement will come to an end.  For the past year or so, we have heard that this would be a possibility, but did any of us actually think that it would happen?  Sure we saw it with the NHL and MLB, but no way would the most powerful sport in our country come to this, right?  Now that it has become a reality, is it the time for us, the football fans, to care or is it going to take until the fall until we realize the threat that this causes to the 2011 season?

Since it is not even a month removed from the Super Bowl, the offseason feels like any other so far.  We know that the lockout is upon us, but it hasn’t yet hit home.  Is this because we think that a resolution will come in time for the start of the season, or because we are just so accustomed to the layoff from football this time of year that we haven’t given it much thought?  The NFL combine just took place this past weekend and the draft is still going to take place as usual in April, so everything seems to be on track.  However, since the collective bargaining agreement has ended, once the player gets drafted by the team, neither he nor any other player can have contact with their respective team.

To most fans, it seems as if it is a battle between billionaires (the owners) and millionaires (players) and we can’t relate to either side because we won’t ever sniff the amount of money that they make in a year.  So it comes down to a discussion of which side should we be pulling for more.  Of course, each side will give counter arguments as to why the other is in the wrong.  For the owner’s side of things, they want to reduce the salary that is given to rookies, and I agree with this wholeheartedly.  Rookies are unproven and don’t deserve to get paid better than some of the elite talent that is in the league now.  While I have gone through the details and tried to find additional valid arguments for the owners, but I haven’t been able to do so.  Unless you consider them wanting more money as being a valid point.  Instead of the 50/50 revenue sharing that they have in place now, the owners want a bigger piece of that pie and want to give the players less.  On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that if a work stoppage happens, the owners won’t be able to collect on lucrative television deals that they were planning on.  The judge said that the owners obviously planned a work stoppage and this is supported by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying months ago that “the owners have to be able to fund a lockout” months ago. Mark the judge’s ruling as a substantial win for the players.  Commissioner Roger Goodell told Fox, NBC, CBS, ESPN and Direct TV that they would have to restructure the current deals that they have in place to include payment in case of a work stoppage.  It wasn’t a request, however, as much as it was a demand.  The tone of the “request” was such that if they stations aren’t willing to agree to the deal, then Goodell would take his and the NFL’s business elsewhere.

All this past season -due to the spotlight on the fines levied against helmet-leading hits, concussions suffered, and the data suggesting a link between playing pro football and brain damage – we have heard the overwhelming concern for the safety of the players.  While I wanted to commend the NFL for their concern, I question their sincerity towards the issue when the talks of an 18 game schedule came up.  Does anything say hypocrisy quite as much as this?  From the horse’s mouth, Goodell said that the fans he has talked to say how much they hate the preseason games and that they are a waste of money.  So why not make the games count?  If players are suffering the injuries that they are now, won’t two extra games make them even more common and problematic?  The Green Bay Packers didn’t help things by winning the Super Bowl while having 15 men on the injured reserve list, which I’m sure the NFL and owners will use in their argument.  It was first thought of being a bargaining tool for the league, but it’s looking more and more like the 2012 season will have 18 regular season games.  Here’s both a question and a solution for you, Commish’: Why not cut out 2 preseason games?  Is it necessary to keep 20 games in the season, including preseason?

While it seems that the players are the bad guys in this situation, the truth is that they don’t want this lockout and aren’t asking for anything more with respect to the money allotment.  They are happy with the way it was and aren’t asking for an increase.  The thing that the players want is more protection for the long-term, after they retire.  As of now, the NFL will cover a player for 5 years after his retirement by providing health insurance and other benefits.  The players want to increase the duration of this coverage, as most injuries don’t show effects until 15 or 20 years down the road.  An NFL player paying for surgeries or other medical care out of pocket, regardless of how much the player makes, isn’t right.

A lockout won’t affect most players if it can be resolved by fall because, unless they get bonuses, they don’t receive any pay in the offseason.  The players will enjoy not having to attend OTAs and will like some time to work out on their own.  If the season doesn’t start on time, it won’t be the players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady that will be affected because they have earned their money and are well-set financially.   But what about the practice squad players who are fighting for a spot on the roster?  Sure they make more than the average American, but take into account the taxes, agent fees, insurance and all that comes with it, they make half of what you think they do.

I have full confidence that the lockout will be resolved and that the season will start on time as planned.  However, it is possible that we won’t have a season this year or even in two years.  Let’s hope that the two sides can come to an agreement and make it as fair for both sides as possible.  The owners have the upper hand and will ultimately come away with more of what they want than the players will.

Which side are you on?

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