The current climate of professional football is not what anybody involved in the game – owners, players, fans and media – signed up for when we made the pigskin our favorite sporting orb.
Over the last year, the question I’ve been asked most by fans, readers, listeners and posters to the site is whether there will be NFL football in Fall 2011. The owners and players will be without a labor agreement come March 4 and some sort of deal needs to be negotiated between the parties.
I’ve always answered the same way – there are very smart people on both sides of this issue and when smart people get together, if they want to achieve a deal, then they will get it done. It’s impossible for me to believe that either the owners or players want to kill the golden goose that football has become over the last 24 years since the league’s last labor unrest.
I still feel that agreement is possible, but the foundation of my beliefs is being shaken by the current status of negotiations between the billionaire owners and the millionaires that work for them. Right now, the lawyers are in control, as both sides prepare to go to court. The NFL Players Association has been plotting its course of decertification, where they would disband as an association and then file an anti-trust case against the league. The NFL on Monday confirmed that it had filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NFLPA, claiming the union has not bargained in good faith because it plans to decertify.
Right now there’s a lot of yapping back and forth. There does not appear to be any common ground. At the Super Bowl, both sides paraded speakers in front of the media talking about how they wanted to get a deal done. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, union president Kevin Mawae and Jeff Pash, league VP who is leading the negotiations, all talked about how their side was concerned with the fan and how they had the everyday Joe Fan foremost in their thoughts.
Said Goodell: “The ownership is completely focused on getting an agreement that works and is fair to the players and the clubs. That’s their focus right now.”
Said Smith: “We intend to sit down and continue to have a discussion that should guarantee football for our fans, football for our players and football for the people who will certainly become players tomorrow.”
That’s the normal type of posturing at this point in a labor negotiation. There’s a lot of rattling of the verbal sabers, and charges of he said, she said. Reportedly when the sides got together on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, Indianapolis QB Peyton Manning and New Orleans QB Drew Brees sat in on the session. It’s been reported that Carolina owner Jerry Richardson threw a couple of verbal jabs at Manning and Brees based on a perceived lack of understanding of the negotiations.
Arizona K Jay Feeley was in the room as part of the union’s negotiating team. He told a New York radio show about what happened.
“Jerry Richardson, he’s going to criticize Peyton Manning and Drew Brees and their intelligence in our meeting Saturday?” Feeley said. “And sit there and say dismissively to Manning, ‘Do I need to help you read a revenue chart, son? Do I need to help break that down for you because I don’t know if you understand how to read that?’ That doesn’t help us get a deal done.”
This has been, and will continue to be a messy process. Both sides are stocked with stubborn men, who are more likely to say “screw you” in negotiations than actually pushing the agenda towards an agreement. These types of situations will get a lot of attention, while quietly there are negotiators from both sides that are having conversations out of the public eye and likely out of the eye of the owners and players. It’s those talks that will eventually lead to a resolution of the disagreement between the parties.
But we will be subjected in the coming days, weeks and months to all sorts of stories that will take us on a roller coaster of emotions. As this sad tale goes on, we’ll devout more space to taking about various issues involved. But it’s not hard to understand what the real problem is between the parties. The NFL makes an estimated $9 billion a year. The owners think the players get too much of that total, while the players say they are happy with what they are getting and want to maintain the status quo.
It’s about money. In the past there have been times when the labor battle between owners and players was tied up with other issues along with the money, like free agency. That’s not the case now – it’s all about the dollars.
It’s all about greed. When they get down to actually negotiating, it will be about slicing up the pie and making their slice as big as possible. There will be no thought given to how it will affect the average fan or ticket buyer. It will be about how to maximize their take of the golden egg.
Given what happened at the Super Bowl at Cowboys Stadium, does anyone really think the NFL is actually looking out for the fan? Thousands of people that paid hundreds even thousands of dollars for tickets were treated like cattle. They were forced to stand in long lines, just to get into the stadium, a process that took some more than two hours. Then there were anywhere from 400 to 800 fans who had tickets but no seats because of major screw-ups by the NFL and the Cowboys when it came to the installation of temporary seating in the stadium.
Yeah, the NFL cares about the ticket buying public.
The owners and players must wakeup and understand they can’t scramble the golden egg. The league survived and thrived after the 1987 strike that included the disastrous replacement games. Over 24 years, a lot has changed in all avenues of our society and these days it’s easy for a business and its participants to be forgotten in a snap of the fingers.
If they don’t, they won’t have to worry about thousands of people trying to get into a stadium.
NFL PERSONNEL FILE FOR MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14
- NFL DRAFT – declared South Carolina TE Weslye Saunders eligible for the 2011 NFL Draft.
- BROWNS – finished up coaching staff hires for new head coach Pat Shurmur, announcing the additions of Ray Rhodes senior assistant-defense, Keith Gilbertson as senior assistant-offense, offensive assistant Chris Beak, defensive assistant Chuck Bullough and special teams assistant Shawn Mennenga.
- COLTS – changed the roles of several assistant coaches, moving Ron Turner from wide receivers to quarterbacks, and Frank Reich from quarterbacks to wide receivers.
- COWBOYS – claimed LB Mike Balogun on waivers from the Bills.
- JETS – named Bill Hughan strength & conditioning coach.
- PATRIOTS – placed the franchise tag on G Logan Mankins.
- RAIDERS – named Rod Woodson as defensive backs coach.
- RAVENS – signed head coach John Harbaugh to a 3-year contract extension.