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Labor Pains: Despite Some Progress, Zero Hour Approaching as NFL Lockout Seems Certain

I’m back from my winter hiatus, folks.  But like every other football fan, I have no idea when or if football will be back.  Despite a little bit of progress and positive signs here and there, we are less than a week away from a lockout.

So where do we stand?

Last Thursday concluded a string of seven consecutive days meeting in the prescence of a federal mediator with both sides agreeing to resume talks on Tuesday, three days before the league’s collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires.   After the 45 hours worth of meetings over the six day span, federal mediator George Cohen  released a statement saying:

“At the bottom, some progress was made, but very strong differences reamin on the all-important core issues that seperate the parties”

Now all of you, like me, are free to gather and discuss as many opinions and scenarios as you please but this situation boils down to being a lot more pessimistic than optimistic.  I’ve thought all along the longer this standoff between the NFL and the NFLPA goes and the closer we get to the CBA expiring, the messy and the worse this is going to be for everyone. 

Cohen didn’t specify the “issues” seperating both sides, but they’re not hard to figure out: revenue, an 18-game vs. the current 16-game format, rookie wages and benefits for retired players.  The biggie seems to be about how exactly about $9 billion in annual revenues will be divided up.  It appears that the owners are asking for a much larger piece of the revenue pie over the last CBA agreement.  Shocking no one, that has been met with staunch resistance by the NFLPA.

Perhaps the most confusing disagreement is the push from the owners for an 18-game schedule instead of the regular 16-game season we currently have.  The owners, along with Commissioner Roger Goodell seem certain that going to an 18-game season will be greatly beneficial, giving the fans what they want (two more regular season games, while doing away with two preseason games).  From a business standpoint, two more games means more money and revenue.  Predictably, the players are stone cold against adding two more games which further elevates the risks of more injuries, jeopardizing the safety of the players.  But yet, from Goodell’s standpoint, he emphasized a great deal this past season about protecting the safety of the the players in such a high-contact collision sport.  So then if he knows adding two more games puts the safety of his players in question, why would he be a proponent of adding more games?

Other than Cohen’s statement, we haven’t heard any chatter about the interworkings going on between the league and the players’ association to come to a swift resolution.  But it would be naive of us to think that a resolution would come swiftly.  If there’s no new deal in place by the end of Thursday, the union has said that the owners will lock out the players, threatening the 2011 season.  

Personally, I don’t think the deadline means a whole lot in the grand scheme of things.  Now, get back to me, say, around August when games being cancelled becomes a reality, then I say it’s time to really begin worrying and begin finding other hobbies on Sunday afternoons.

The latest wrinkle came over the weekend where it was reported that barring an eleventh-hour resolution in which no one is expecting, the NFLPA plans to decertify by Thursday in an effort to pre-empt the owners’ lockout.  The CBA states that the NFLPA must wait six months to decertify if it does it after the collective bargaining agreement expires. It expires at 11:59 p.m. Thursday night.  So, if the union decertifies it is no longer a union and the National Labor Relations Board will lose its hold over the NFLPA.  As expected, the NFLPA is anticipated that they’ll take some form of action before Thursday evening. 

The main reason the decertification would take effect would be to file for an injunction.  If the injunction is granted, it would prevent the owners from locking out the players.  This is a move that could be the one hope to have a full NFL season in 2011, rather than a half or partial season.    If the NFLPA decertifies before the expiration of the current CBA, it would also allow the players to injunctive relief and commence anti-trust action against the owners.

So, as you can see the entire mess presents headaches abound for everyone involved: fans, players and owners.  Coaches and staff would not be allowed to talk to the players.  Training camps will be greatly affected in the summer and might have to be led by the captains of the respective teams.  Rookies won’t be able to sign their new contracts until sometime in the summer as well, and free agents might have to settle for short contracts because once (or if) an agreement is reached, there will be a shortened free agency period.

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3 Responses to “Labor Pains: Despite Some Progress, Zero Hour Approaching as NFL Lockout Seems Certain”

  1. John Gratzek says:

    its funny how you all talk about the players like they are the greedy ones. Players bust ass training for DECADES to get where they are and entertain TENS OF MILLIONS of people every weekend. Owners do what? They get super rich off other people’s labor (players, front office staff, sales staff, construction workers, etc…) and all because they happened to be born into the super rich elite segment of the population. Oh but wait you say – all those people you named wouldn’t have jobs if not for the super rich elite owners – so suck it up and be happy you have a job while these super rich fuckers toast each other watching all the regular folk turn on the hard working players because they are so ‘greedy’. Sorry, not buyin it – ALL NFL teams could EASYILY be run like the Packers – regular folks – the fans – who love the sport and are passionate for it all toss in 10,000. You will easily find 100,000 people in markets that deserve a team willing to invest this much for partial ownership in the team. Then it can be run like any other publicly held business where professionals are brought in to run a team, and if they suck, the shareholdesr throw them out. So I have just proposed a viable model for the whole NFL, that already works for one team (that just won the Super Bowl I might add), where the ‘owners’ contribution is ZERO, and the fans actually have a say in THEIR team. No more shit owners like Al Davis, a rich asshole prick, running a great franchise into the ground. No more shit markets like Jacksonville, whose fans don’t even give a shit, having to waste our times on the weekend. The point is – owners don’t do anything except rake in the HUGE $$$ – and spend as much time as possible trying to cast their employees in the worst possible light (I will admit, some players do a good job helping them out with this). Why else don’t they release their numbers, privately, to an independent mediator who can audit their books and see if this (false) claim they are losing money is for real (it isn’t).

    As far as I am concerned, the players are the ones who take the hits, put in the training, spend decades honing their skills, all to entertain YOU every Sunday for 22 weekends a year. Honestly – what do the owners contribute to this sport, other than raking in the huge profits earned on the backs of the players? Not a whole lot I can see, except threatening to take away our favorite sport for a year or two, because they are rich enough to wait it out, and they don’t care about what we (the fans) want (a season) or what their employees (the players) need (a job) – its all about getting a bigger share of the pie for those 30 old, rich, pricks who are going to shut down our favorite sport next season because they are so greedy and don’t care about anything but making more of that $$$.

    My final thought – please, tell me if I am wrong here – but for 99% of fans AND players, we are giving our hearts to this sport because we love the SPORT. I can count on one hand the owners who share the same passion; the rest’s passions lay solely with acquiring as big a share as possible of the $$$ that flows out of the most sucessful sports league the world has ever seen.

  2. Frank M says:

    John, first off I have to say….wow. I don’t think I’ve ever had a poster come across with more passion and fire than you. I can picture you sitting down at your computer ready to pull your hair out over this entire situation and frankly, I’m right there with you. I share your passion and I’m sure there are so many fans across the country who feel the exact same way. I happen to have more than one job, so to be perfectly honest a collection of millionaires and billionaires squabbling and pouting doesn’t hold much water with me. I just want this resolved so I don’t have to miss out one of the sports I love to watch every Sunday. But unfortunately, as I’m getting older I’m starting to see that this is just like many other things in life: it’s all coming down to money. Owners want their share of the pie and don’t want to continue to share with other owners all while paying the players less. The players want more compensation for the training, the hits and their livelihood they’re laying on the line each week, which I can’t disagree with especially if they decide to go to an 18-game schedule because they’ll be the ones generating more revenue for the league which equals more money being lined in the pockets of the owners. I’m not sure where we’re headed with all this yet, but I thought a resolution would come around the draft. Now I think this thing definitely drags into the summertime. Someone and something has to give. So far neither the NFL nor the NFLPA appears willing to budge.

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