From Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
It was an interesting Thursday afternoon here in Super Bowl Land. The National Football League Players Association held its annual press conference.
I decided to attend the affair with a friend. I’ll call him The Capitalist.
After some 45 minutes of listening to NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith’s saber rattling, talk of an owner lockout in 2011, a season ahead without a salary cap and the plight of retired players, The Capitalist left the room with his blood pressure jacked up and incredulity dripping from every pour.
“These guys are nuts,” The Capitalist said. “They get 60 percent of the NFL revenue and they think that’s their right? Where is their risk? The owners assume all the risk.”
I reminded The Capitalist that the football players more than any other team sport, risk their bodies in playing the game.
“It’s not like they aren’t getting paid,” The Capitalist nearly shouted. “How many 23 or 24-year olds are making two or three million dollars a year? They get paid quite well for their risk.”
Yes they do, and owners make a lot of money themselves. The golden goose landed on pro football some 20 years ago and continues to punch out eggs filled with riches. The owners have seen the value of their franchises rise remarkably in the last 20 years. The players union says those values are up 500 percent. The players are getting 60 percent of the league’s gross revenues. This coming season, the minimum salary for rookies is $320,000. A three-year veteran has a minimum of $545,000.
Everybody has gotten rich and the fans have gotten poorer.
The Capitalist started his company over a decade ago. Like a lot of entrepreneurs, things did not start well, but he worked hard, sacrificed and made many more good decisions than bad. Today he has a company that grows its revenue by 20 to 30 percent a year, even in these bad economic times. If he liquidated it all tomorrow, he would never have to work another day of his life.
So I asked The Capitalist what he would do if his employees suddenly banded together walked into his office and demanded pay and benefits equal to 60 percent of the company’s annual revenues. He thought about that one for a second.
“If they were together and strong, I would probably have to make the deal,” The Capitalist said. “Then, I’d mark up my product and services. I’d pass the increased costs along to my customers.”
Which is exactly what’s going to happen to NFL fans when all this finally gets sorted out through collective bargaining or the courts? The players’ percentage of the revenue may go down. The owners may have to accept decreased monies. The only group that’s guaranteed to see an increase, and in this case an increase in cost, is the fan.
Smith railed against the league owners for presenting an initial CBA proposal that included the players taking an 18 percent cut in the revenue directed to them. Smith kept spitting out the 18 percent number, saying it was too insulting to even make a counter offer to the owners. A collection of current and former players sat behind him, including the seldom seen or heard from Barry Sanders (left).
“I almost jumped up and asked if the players association would support an 18 percent reduction in ticket prices,” said The Capitalist.
Smith worked Thursday’s press conference like a motivational speaker, wearing a wireless microphone, pacing on the stage in front of a dozen current and former players who were there as a show of solidarity. Smith kept saying “I dig it.” He dug the history of the game. He dug the idea of players coming together to create a team. He said he dug capitalism, although The Capitalist had some doubts about the veracity of that statement.
The first question to Smith came from a member of the media his membership, Bengals WR Chad Ochocino who appeared as a television reporter. Ocho wanted to know how series the executive director viewed the possibility of an owners’ lockout in 2011. “On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s a 14,” said Smith.
The union believes all signs point to the league locking the doors after the 2010 season and not opening until the players accept whatever demands are put on the table. There’s ownership’s initial offer featuring the 18 percent reduction in the players’ share. The league has a new deal with the TV networks that will continue payments to the league even if there are no games to broadcast. And there is the restructuring of contracts for assistant coaches to reflect no pay if no games are played.
Would the owners be silly enough to take football off the field in a year? Have the players become rich fat cats on their own, trying to gain a lifetime fortune in five or six years in the league? Based on the comments and action of both sides in this battle, it appears they are silly and fat cats enough.
But that is the nature of negotiating these types of agreements. There will be plenty more saber rattling and posturing in the coming months and the next year.
“Unbelievable!” said The Capitalist. “How do these guys getting anything done?”
Why is this important? If you are a football fan – and I assume you’ve found this site because you enjoy the game – then these are important times. No matter what eventually happens in this negotiation, there will be a hand in your pocket.
SIGNINGS, FIRINGS, MOVEMENT & OTHER NEWS AROUND THE LEAGUE
- BILLS – hired George Edwards as defensive coordinator. He was coaching at the University of Florida.
- EAGLES – hired former Cleveland GM Phil Savage as a draft consultant.
- JAGUARS – announced the hiring of Earnest Byner as running backs coach, Joe Cullen as defensive line coach, Rob Boras as tight ends coach, Ben Albert as assistant defensive line coach and offensive assistants Ron Heller and Matt Griffin.
- JETS – hired Mark Carrier as defensive line coach; signed long snapper Tanner Purdum
FROM THE PAGES OF SUPER BOWL HISTORY
On February 5, 2006, the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 in Super Bowl XL at Ford Field in Detroit. The game would end up being one of the most controversial in Super Bowl history because of the officiating, as a number of calls on the field all went against the Seahawks.
Playing a drivable distance away from Pittsburgh, Steelers fans turned the atmosphere into a home game for their black and gold. That disadvantage did not slow down the Seahawks, who jumped to a 3-0 lead on a 47-yard FG by Josh Brown.
Pittsburgh came back and got the game’s first touchdown, as QB Ben Roethlisberger scored on a disputed one-yard run. The Seahawks felt the ball never crossed the goal line. They added the next score in the third quarter when RB Willie Parker scampered 75 yards for a touchdown. Seattle pulled closer on a 16-yard TD pass from QB Matt Hasselbeck to TE Jerramy Stevens.
But the Steelers wrapped things up in the fourth quarter, when WR Antwaan Randle El on a fake end-around threw the ball to WR Hines Ward for a 43-yard TD. The PAT kick set the final score. Ward won the game’s MVP trophy, with his five catches for 123 yards and one TD. Parker finished with 93 yards on 10 carries. Jerome Bettis had 14 carries for 43 yards in what was the last game of his career.
In pre-game activity, Stevie Wonder, John Legend and the Four Tops all appeared and performed on the field. Aaron Neville, Aretha Franklin and Dr. John sang the national anthem. The half-time entertainment was provided by the Rolling Stones. ABC had the telecast with Al Michaels and John Madden doing the commentary. The cost of a 30-second commercial in the game broadcast was $2.5 million. Ultimately, it was estimated that 90.7 million people watched the game.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on February 5, 1938 in Big Spring, Texas was RB-K Jack Spikes. He was part of the very first Dallas Texans team in that inaugural 1960 season for the American Football League. Spikes would go on to play eight seasons in the AFL, the first five with the Texas/Chiefs (1960-64). Signed out of TCU by the Texans after the ‘59 college season, Spikes played in 51 games for the franchise. He ran the ball 329 times for 1,392 yards and 12 touchdowns. He caught 45 passes for 568 yards and two touchdowns. Spikes also was 19 of 57 on his FG attempts over his career and made 69 of his 76 PAT kicks. He finished up his playing career with a season in Houston and two years in Buffalo.