What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
Was Abe Lincoln honest? Not including what happened this past week, there have been seven prior negotiating sessions between the NFL owners and the Players’ Association. Including what happened this week, they’ve made no progress toward a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). While the reasons for this may be numerous, a single vision of a labor stoppage in 2011 is becoming clearer every day.
By all accounts, it seems the Players’ Association (NFLPA) is under the belief the owners have a plan to lock out the players in 2011 in an effort to break the union; ultimately to score a owner-friendly CBA. First, there is the NFLPA’s view. The union’s requests for audited financial statements supporting the owner’s claims of economic distress have all been rejected. Not only does this lead the union to the lock-out conclusion, it caused them to retain a financial consultant to investigate the owners assertions. After all, what this all boils down to is the owners’ contention that costs are too high, and they would like players to take a pay cut. But until the owner’s open up the books, that’s not likely to happen.
However, the player’s do have an end-run toward a snap-shot of the league’s finances. Enter the Green Bay Packers, which as a publicly held team are required by law to disclose their financial information. This past June, the Green Bay Packers released statements saying they booked a $20.1 million profit for the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2009.
Based on that accounting, not only do the players doubt the owner’s claims of financial difficulty, but they point to the owner’s hiring of Bob Batterman. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Batterman is a sports attorney whose big claims to fame are engineering the lockout that cost the NHL an entire season, and negotiating the NFL’s TV deals that will pay off even if there are no games in 2011. Batterman’s own website states the following:
Long before “corporate campaigns” became the tactic of choice for unions seeking either representational rights without the risk of a secret ballot election or to force a collective bargaining settlement which they could not achieve either through bargaining or on the picket line, Bob was involved in creating counter-campaigns and the defensive strategizing necessary to neutralize this tactic. Today, after numerous campaigns, Bob’s strategic insights and organizational skills are often sought to assist clients and their teams of consultants and advisors navigate through the smokescreen generated by a union movement seeking to reformulate and reinvigorate itself.
That means “professional union buster,” and he’s got the track record to back it up. Just ask the hockey players. Not only has Batterman been in the owner’s camp since 2008, but there are some other points that have the union convinced a lock out is coming.
1) The owners let the deadline of March 2010 pass.
If there was no new CBA in place by March 2010, this upcoming season must be played with no salary cap. Normally, you would think this would mean a bunch of “win-now” owners would engage in a spend-gasm in an uncapped league, but the owners controlled spending knowing what it would mean long-term in favor of a desire to get the labor deal they want. On the other hand, having an uncapped season is just the first shot across the union’s bow; no salary cap means about 200 players who would otherwise be unrestricted free agents will instead be restricted free agents. Another sticking point for the union: no cap also means no floor, which in theory could pave the way for low-revenue teams paring to bare-bones budgets.
2) The owners have decided to abolish the $200 million supplemental revenue sharing fund for 2010.
Think of the supplemental revenue sharing fund as the NFL’s equivalent of baseball’s “luxury tax.” This fund was intended to be paid to the league’s bottom eight revenue generators for use toward their 2011 payrolls. But if their aren’t going to be games in 2011, there’s no need for payroll assistance. But $200 million split 32 ways does make a nice start for a “rainy-day” fund rather than piddling it away on eight teams that can’t make money. Before you start doing the math on how little that alone makes up for the lost revenue a work stoppage would bring, don’t forget the TV contracts pay in any event.
3) Nobody agrees on the accounting.
Not only does this bode badly, but it is a direct result of a failure on the part of the owners to open the books. The NFLPA claims the owner’s have asked the players to give back 18% of their portion of the overall revenue pot in the first year of the new CBA. The problem is nobody seems to know what the 18% comes off; the figures for the NFL’s total revenue range from $7.5 billion to $8.5 billion. The current CBA has the players getting 60 percent of the revenue, with the remainder going to the owner’s. Giving back 18% would drop the player’s take to 42% of the gross. They simply aren’t going to do that without some serious opening of the leagues’ books.
4) The coming public relations war.
The owners are savvy enough to know they have some wedge issues they can use against the players. Granted, public relations in a money war between millionaire players and billionaire owners seems a bit ludicrous, but we have a country full of self-righteous buttloafs who think they have some right to say what other people do with their money. The owner’s know they can claim some “moral high ground” by initiating a rookie wage scale; both the fans and veteran players agree that rookies should not make more than established players, but the union rejects that out of hand. After all, the union gets a cut of every dollar paid in salaries; they are not going to take any position reducing any salaries.
The owners also know they can win the favor of the retired players by promising to allocate a part of the savings they get from union concessions to establish a retiree’s fund. This wouldn’t be hard to accomplish as the retirees already don’t trust the union due to a belief that prior union administrations cared little about former players.
5) The owners opted out of the current CBA.
This almost could be item #4A rather than its own, as there is a lot public relations wrangling in this. The union and the players insist they will not go on strike. The union says it was in favor of the current CBA, which was supposed to run through 2012. The union says the owners won’t tell them why they opted out of the CBA. The union is bending over backwards to make sure the ticket-buying public believes any work stoppage would be owner-driven and not player-driven.
Of course, garnering public support is crucial; without it the NFLPA has almost zero chance of prevailing in this conflict without it. Without public support, the players have no leverage; while with or without public support, the owner’s will still have the guaranteed TV money.
The bottom line: if you are a fan of the NFL, enjoy the 2010 season, because you may not get one in 2011.