By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
Right now, the pace of negotiations between the National Football League and the NFL Players Association have this writer believing that It might be a good long time before you hear the words: “Are You Ready for Some Football?”
But with billions of dollars at stake both sides in this dispute had better do something quick.
The NFL grossed $9 billion in 2009 and it is still the most popular sport in America. But if the two sides can’t work things out, it will definitely be a public relations nightmare of biblical proportions.
And the cities that house NFL teams will lose money also. Arlene Holt Baker, an executive vice president of the AFL-CIO told a group of fans at an NFLPA gathering back in November that a lockout would be a blow to the nacient economic recovery.
“It will mean that 25,000 people who work in concession stands in our stadiums will not be able to work,” Baker said “It means that in every team’s city we will lose $160 million. Now I ask you in these tough economic times, can any of our cities afford the loss of $160 million? No, they can’t. “
With both the NFL Players Association and league owners having already gone through another round of negotiations earlier this week, both sides are still locked in a impasse with seemingly no end in sight. The current collective bargaining agreement expired on March 3
Even with the efforts of a federal mediator, the two sides have failed to find common ground on the issues that keep the two sides apart. On Wednesday of this week, the owners, led by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, met among themselves, but did not take a vote on whether to lock the players out.
“The committee has not made any decision as to what will happen upon expiration of the current agreement if we don’t have a new one by tomorrow night,” League spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, a federal judge in Minneapolis ruled in favor of the NFLPA which was seeking to block the NFL from using $4 billion in TV money as its own private war chest in the event of a lockout.
In what was a 28-page ruling, U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled that the NFL owners violated its agreement with the players that TV revenue be placed in escrow in the event of a lockout. There will be another hearing on the damages that the league will have to pay the players. The union was pleased with the court’s decision..
“This ruling means there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lock out players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on,” the NFLPA said in an official statement on its website.
Some analysts are saying that this particular ruling might be the thing that motivates the owners to really sit down with the players to hammer something out. If there is a lockout, the players union will probably decertify and would be able to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL.
In 2008, the owners opted out of the current collective bargaining agreement which they believed favored the players and not taking into consideration the economical struggles of its clubs, especially the smaller market teams.
If you look at the $9 billion in revenue the league took in last year, the players get 60 percent of the remaining revenue while the owners get the other 40 percent. Meanwhile, the gross revenue is split 50-50.
And the owners want the players to give up their 50 percent because the cost of doing business has increased for the owners. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith along with the players have asked the owners to open up their books to see what both sides can do to offset costs. So far, the owners have refused to do so.
Equally as interesting is that not only does the league want to take back some of the money from the players they are seeking to implement an 18-game schedule. With concerns about safety on the rise, the players, who don’t have the luxury of guaranteed contracts, don’t want to expand the season unless there’s compensation.
Back in February, the players union offered to give up $1 billion of its take of the gross revenue, which would have given the owners a majority of the gross revenue, but the owners walked out of the session.
In a sport in which you’re one serious injury from retirement and have no guaranteed money to use as a cushion, the players have to fight for everything they can get at this point. If it means decertifying the union for the players to get what they want, so be it. Smith will no doubt have to compromise on some issues, but not to the point to where they give management too much.