Is it about the $ 1 billion deficit or is it about the players’ health and well being? With the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) ending on March 11, 2011, the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) ‘decertified’ the union and filed anti-trust suit against the NFL.
The NFL in turn announced a lockout; the first since the lockout of 1987.
So what is the source of the matter that has spiraled out of control and now threatens not only the September season of the game, but the game and NFL as we know it?
The tiff and the standoff between the NFL and the NFLPA (which is now a trade association) is basically based on the negotiations to install a new CBA before the coming season. The previous CBA was agreed upon in 2006 and was supposed to be in place till 2012. However, the owners decided to opt out of it in 2008 and as a result, the 2008 and 2009 games were played with a salary cap and the 2010 games were played without a salary cap and limited free agency rights of the player. With the present deadlock, if there is no new CBA before the 2011 season, it will jeopardize the game itself.
Why a deadlock in the first place?
To enforce it, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) should be agreed upon by both the NFL (owners) and the NFL Player Association. The current unrest is about the sum of earnings that is divided between the owners and the players. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar franchise with earnings projected as high as $9 billion. As per the prior CBA, the distribution of the earnings were divided between the players and the team owners; that is until the NFL revoked the CBA citing financial reasons in wake of the economic downturn.
According to the NFL, they want to cut player salaries by 18 percent saving around $1 billion and allocate the funds for stadium construction, improvement and operations as well as other franchise related operations. The clubs also cited that the prior CBA prohibited them from recouping the bonuses from players who breach their contracts or who refuse to perform which is unfair to not only the players who perform but the fans as well. The NFL also points that the prior CBA enabled rookies to secure contracts which paid them more than the top proven veterans.
On the other hand the players say that it is not just about the money. According to them, it’s about the owners taking more than just the game away from the fans, it’s about inequitable leverage, about the owners wanting more from the players without justified reasons and lastly it’s about the players’ health, healthcare, and future.
The players, who are represented by the NFLPA, say that the owners have been unwilling to give substantial proof that they are facing losses, want to increase the number of games which increases the chances of player injuries and at the same time want to cut player salaries by 18 percent. Already, in face of the lockout, the NFL has refused to pay for healthcare coverage, thus adding to the players’ burden. Also, adding more games will hamper a player’s ability to secure post career healthcare.
The players have very keenly pointed out that even if the next season doesn’t materialize, the owners suffer no loss and on the contrary pay out less. The owners have will receive $4.5 billion from their TV contracts even if there are no games played. Also, the owners will be saving on the player salaries.
Who is really suffering?
In the lockout, the brunt of the whole affair is not being borne by the people on the field or those owners watching from the boxes. The damage is being passed way down the line to the team support staffs that are caught between a tornado that is simply going round and round with no avail of stopping. It will be the ticket sellers, community relation workers and the personnel assistants who may be axed first and the coaches and other essential staff may have to take salary cuts as much as 50 percent. And with no games, the fans will be left to satisfy their football frenzy by pushing just the buttons on some gamepads.
What are they doing about it?
For the most of three months since the lockout, the negotiations didn’t seem to go anywhere. On April 25, Judge Susan Nelson granted an injunction in favor of the NFLPA to lift the lockout which was later stayed by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on May 16 and hence the lockout remains in place. On the other hand, the NFL and the NFLPA resumed mediated talks on the same day in Minneapolis.
What this means for the fans? It means that at least there is some movement to salvage the next season of football and things might steer in a better direction and everything might turn out well. Although, fans shouldn’t be out buying their tickets just yet.