Monday, February 7, 2011

Looming NFL Lockout

(To run 2/10/11)

By the time you are reading this, chances are you’re sick of the Super Bowl talk. Unless, of course, you are from Wisconsin, and in that case you will talking into 2012. But for the majority of us, our team didn’t win; maybe the team we hoped would win did, but we didn’t have any kind of real vested interest in the game, and we haven’t thought about it too much since we turned our TVs off at 10:30 p.m., Sunday night.

Most people see the Super Bowl as an end – the end of the season; and for many women, a chance to get their husband/boyfriend back on Sundays. But for me, I see the Super Bowl as a beginning. My team didn’t win this year, but now we look ahead to next season.

Except … this time, there might not be a next season. Throughout the 2010-2011 season, there has been the proverbial elephant in the room – something we’re all thinking about constantly, but trying to ignore in hopes that it will go away: the looming lockout. 

All throughout “Super Week” and the entire season, the side story was next season’s potential lockout – Who is at fault? Who has to make the first move to prevent a lockout? Whose side should we be on?

The major issue is that the owners have decided that the 2006 labor agreement was too player friendly and wish to re-work it. 

Total league revenues for last season were approximately $9 billion, and there's every reason to believe that cash cow will continue. Players currently receive about 59 percent of total football revenue, but that figure is calculated after taking $1 billion off the top, which goes to owners for operating expenses. Owners are seeking an economic model that better favors their pockets. In addition, they want to tack on two more regular season games to the schedule in which they will make additional millions in revenue, but they don’t want to pay players any additional money for those games. They also want to establish a rookie wage scale that will restrict the amount of money that rookies will make when they enter the NFL, which would allow teams to avoid paying high salaries to new players that don’t live up to the team’s expectations. 

Here are my two cents: we as fans should be on the side of the players. I realize that most people think of NFL players as overpaid machines who should keep their mouths closed and be thankful they get paid to play a game; but if not for the players, then there is no game. 

People tend to forget about the backups or the practice squad players who make league minimum. Most of you are thinking, “League minimum is still more than I’ll ever make in a year.” But you also don’t have to pay an agent, a manager, a financial consultant, etc. Most lower-rung players do in fact live year-to-year and would be in a financial hard place if they don’t get a paycheck next season. 

The players are the ones who will suffer if there is a lockout, and the owners know this. For every $20 million contract, there are 30 players who make league minimum, and the players union has always cracked in the past to ensure that those athletes who need each paycheck aren’t suffering.

The owners and the NFL have negotiated TV deals that will pay them $4.5 billion in 2011 ... even if no games are played. On the other hand, if there are no games the players won’t get paid, their families will lose health coverage and injuries won’t be treated by team doctors and trainers who know the athletes and their health background. 

In a nutshell, owners are demanding that players play two more games each season and take an 18 percent pay cut. If the NFL had fallen on hard times, this might be understandable – but the NFL is as profitable as ever. What the owners want to do is unfair to the players, who are the most important piece of the NFL pie.

The only thing that the two sides agree upon is that former players need to be better taken care of – it is the amount of care that is debated. Players say that they feel that they are paid for their services, but then once they have ruined their bodies and sometimes even their brains with the brutal play of the game, they are tossed aside. Men who play NFL football for five years reportedly cut their lives short by twenty years, and after all of the hits they take to the head throughout their careers, an astonishingly high percentage of players have been diagnosed with depression and Alzheimer’s. Owners and the league owe it to former players to give them quality health care for life.

Even if you don’t care about the impact on players and owners, a lockout will have devastating impacts on NFL cities – each NFL city is expected to lose about $150 million if there is a lockout next year, and an estimated 150,000 people will be out of a job. Can cities like Cleveland or Detroit afford that exorbitant financial loss in this economy? I think not.

In short, it is the owners who are pushing ahead with this lockout – on March 4, if they don’t get their way, they will lock their doors. They want to cut salaries, but won’t give a definitive reason as to why it is necessary. Until they do so, all fans should stand behind the players, the ones who we cheer on each Sunday, and who put their bodies on the line each week for our entertainment and the owners profit.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Nicely thought out, Jen. :)