An Idiot’s Guide to the NFL Lockout
For the casual sports fan the words lockout, collective bargaining agreement and player’s association aren’t a part of their sports vocabulary. Like me, they prefer their sports vocabulary to surround terms like playoffs, most valuable player and tickets, of course. Unfortunately the product we love so much is just that, a product. The business of the sports has recently come center stage again with the heated debate raging between the NFL players association (NFLPA) and NFL ownership. This stalemate has many involved throwing around those dreaded words, LOCKOUT.
We here at Gold Coast Tickets are avid NFL enthusiasts. The idea of not having our football sanctuary each week is scary enough. Throw into the mix the fact that our company would be highly impacted by the foolish decisions of the NFL and its players, and that makes this lockout discussion of critical importance to us. So I thought I would take a few moments to discuss just what’s going on up there in Goodell land.
The NFL seems to be thriving. Just this year they are posting records for television ratings, still drawing high levels of stadium attendance and you can’t turn on the television without seeing an NFL players face on a commercial. Sponsorships are up, revenues are up. So what is the problem with the way things are? The answer is simple. The price isn’t right for NFL owners.
In May 2008, both the NFLPA and NFL owners had the option of opting out of the current collective bargaining agreement. It was widely rumored at the time that the NFL owners would preemptively opt out of the agreement in order to get negotiations rolling towards a new, more financially lucrative deal to start in 2010-2011. Since that time the NFLPA has continuously asked for financial transparency from the owners. They have been met with resistance. The players simply want the owners to open up their books and explain the financial issue that would drive them to threaten a lockout.
Fast forward to today. Negotiations continue to be thwarted and there are growing feelings of animosity among players. They contend that in the current collective bargaining agreement they receive approximately 50% of NFL revenues distributed among both rookie and veteran players. Seems fair, doesn’t it? Half for me and half for you, right? Unfortunately, NFL owners don’t feel this way and continue their ploy for higher revenue compensation.
Preseason vs. Regular Season Game Revenue and Rookie Compensation
There are two major roadblocks standing in the way of getting this deal done. The owners have made a two game schedule expansion the centerpiece of there demands. They believe dropping two preseason games and making them regular season games will make for a more compelling NFL season and generate more revenues across the board. This idea is intriguing indeed, especially to those of us who would be selling tickets to those extra games. Obviously issues arise when you begin asking these players to lay it on the line two more times a season. Remember, the NFL doesn’t have guaranteed contracts for its players and the injury concerns in the NFL are higher then they have ever been. Some people have made the assertion that they’re not adding games, they’re simply changing the value of the preseason games. This argument is incorrect. The level of effort demonstrated and the amount of time starter’s play in preseason games compared to regular season games isn’t even close.
The next substantial roadblock in the negotiations is the extraordinary amounts of money being paid to unproven rookies. One of the primary reasons for the owners opting out of the collective bargaining agreement in 2008 was a growing fear of these astonishing contracts being given to unproven and often undeserving rookies. The NFLPA answered their concern with a proposal called the proven performance plan. The plan calls for the money that would be saved on rookie salaries by owners to be distributed among players who have proven their worth over several seasons. Although this plan addresses the concerns of owners with rather direct and intuitive thinking, the owners are unwilling to guarantee that the money saved on the rookie contracts would be given to the veteran players.
What This Means for the Rest of Us
The silver lining in all of this is that the NFL makes a lot of money. While the term lockout gets thrown around casually, these big wig owners should also consider that some communities’ economic infrastructure also depend on football. Personally, one of my favorite parts about football Sundays is plopping down on a stool at The Piggery, a bar on Ashland and Irving Park, and having a couple while I take in all of the games each week. Without football I’m not so inclined to go to the bar and I believe many people feel similar to me.
As these millionaires and billionaires squabble over each and every dollar they should keep in mind the average Joe who helps put food on the table because of this great game. My hope for this article was that, with clarity and candor, I might be able to shed some light on a situation which is convoluted with false reports and misinformation. Although I dread the idea, the lockout discussion is here to stay, get used to it. Both sides need to take a little advice from my future hall of fame, felon friend Michael Irvin, “C’mon Man”!