The Paw Print
Football is one of the most popular sports in the entire world. One could go about anywhere and find some trace of NFL regalia. Super Bowl Sunday itself has become a national holiday, effectively shutting down most of America.
Sunday is the unofficial day set aside for football. The games often times give people a reason to get up before eleven in the morning, aside from church. The sport’s popularity is without question a sort of new religion, gaining members daily. One could only imagine the chaos that would ensue if for some ungodly reason football didn’t arrive at its designated time in the fall. Unfortunately, that is the reality of 2011. For the first time since 1987, the NFL is experiencing a lockout.
Following the Green Bay Packers victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV, the lockout began. This essentially shutdown all football related business bring the NFL to a halt. Two sides emerged in the conflict, the players and the owners. As negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement broke down, the NFLPA decided to decertify as a union to be able to file suit against the NFL for antitrust law breach. This began the current NFL lockout as it is today.
Part of the issue confronting the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreement is the players wanting a larger slice of the pie from the owners who are worth billions, give or take depending on the size and market of their respective markets. This would appear to be simple enough and would instantly have any sane individual jumping to the side of the players. However, the players aren’t exactly waiting in line at the soup kitchen, either.
The average players’ base salary is about $295,000. That’s not for the Peyton Mannings or the Tom Bradys, that’s your average football player. Rookies and first year players make about $285,000 whereas veteran players essentially make about $820,000.
It takes a veteran player about ten years to reach that form of the base salary. Considering the violent nature of the game, playing that long is almost impossible, so most would never make that amount.
Tom Brady, one of the key players named in the lawsuit against the NFL and poster boy quarterback for the New England Patriots, just signed a deal that will net him $60 million over six years. There is a significant difference between the all-stars and the grunt players in the league. What can be said is that although the run of the mill players make substantially less, they are still far from being in the poor house. Something can be said for the owners feeling that the players are receiving enough.
What can be agreed upon is that owners do not want to spend an exorbitant amount of money on players’ salaries, which are already ridiculously high. A salary cap was in place that allowed for an even playing field for the 32 teams to get and pay players without the players running up huge salaries that just a few teams can afford, a la Major League Baseball.
Another sticking point is the ridiculous amount rookies, unproven players, receive just for signing with a team. Sam Bradford signed on to play quarterback for the St. Louis Rams for a cool $50 million. That was directly out of college, with absolutely zero professional experience. In Bradford’s case, he is doing fairly decently with his team. Some players demand huge contracts only to become busts and fade into anonymity, like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf.
A major point of contention in addition to the salary issue is the proposed extension of the football season by the owners. The NFL is a lucrative enterprise that brings in billions in revenue. The players find the proposal for an extended season to unreasonable. The players view it as a greedy move by the owners. The players reasoning is that playing extra games would be more taxing on the players’ health. The recent issues with head trauma, more specifically concussions, have players trying to protect themselves better. Playing more games would put them at more risk.
As for the fans, the concept of more football games is an excellent dream. Fans respond to the players’ complaint of safety with “you knew this sport was dangerous when you started playing.” Also, football players essentially get paid to play a game. It is understood that the game is dangerous, but they get more money than firefighters or police officers, whose occupations are far more dangerous, and frankly, serve a far greater purpose. Long story short, adding additional two or three games to the schedule won’t jeopardize players’ health too much. However, it may shorten careers but in a culture of instant praise or disdain this may be to the players benefit as player production generally drops as they age.
Financial issues are causing the whole collective bargaining agreement to be mired in distrust and greed. Revenue sharing is a hot topic as has been the case since the NFL’s inception. The owners have an additional nine billion that the players want split between the two sides. Basically players are asking for the same percentage as they had previously. The amount of total revenue that the league has been taking in has hovered around nine billion for the past decade. Since there doesn’t seem to be much of a discrepancy it seems that this issue is groundless.
The commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell, is quoted as saying “Staying with the status quo is not an option.” What that seems to imply is that that the league is being the bad guy and not wanting to split some of the money with the players. If the players are interested in keeping it the same and it has worked effectively for both the league and the players, why change it?
The main point is that there doesn’t seem to be any form of negotiations between the league and the players. That’s why it was taken to court in the first place. Much like Congress, it appears to be like a bunch of children bickering over who gets to ride the big wheel. Until the two sides can decide on how to manage revenue sharing, this lockout could last forever.
With the obvious distrust between the players and the owners we find that the dispersion of information regarding the leagues’ financial interactions is another key issue. The chasm between the players and owners has left the players feeling that if they are just “employees” that are on a need-to-know basis. This is not going to float their boats, so players are asking the team owners to divulge financial information. The owners are reluctant to do so, which indicates that they just may be hoarding income and that there would be a major issue if the players became aware of the discrepancy. The players are interested in viewing the past ten years worth of accounting reports. The owners are not interested in giving out that information and unless they are court ordered to do so, it may never happen.
Early on in the process of mediation that the players and the NFL were engaged in over the past few weeks, the players asked for the information regarding the leagues financial state. During a meeting in April, the NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith was disappointed with the information that the league agreed to give the players, which was essentially the effects of economic conditions on the league. This information was just to general for the now defunct player union. The players were hoping to get more specific information about the financial information of teams that they play for.
This is not an unreasonable request and one that the league should comply with. Why the league feels that it should hide this information is unusual and shady at best. It is reminiscent of a totalitarian society. Keep down the workers and keep the big business owners happy. The players feel the same way. Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was quoted in an interview with Doug Farrar of Yahoo’s “Shutdown Corner” saying that the NFL is “Modern day slavery.”
This comment created quite a buzz in the national media circuit. Most people found the comment obscured and in bad taste. Let’s be clear, NFL players are not generally known for their intelligence. In fact, it is hard to go one week without an NFL player making a ridiculous statement, even in the off-season.
Let’s examine the statement more closely. Last time I checked, and according to most United States history classes, slaves did not receive any kind of monetary compensation for their endless toil. Adrian Peterson made $10.2 million last season.
So, what does this all mean? It means the lockout will continue. The two sides are just not interested in making concessions to each other. The owners are a bunch of greedy bastards and they are just not interested in allowing the players to gain any sort of league equality. They like the system the way it is, they receive copious amounts of profit, which is gained through the superstar players that they pay a pretty penny to every season. The players want equality. They want to be more than just the workers of the moneymaking farm.
The unfortunate reality of the situation is that the 2011 season may not see football. The leaves will change, the weather will cool, but the pigskin will not make an appearance. We may see mass demonstrations the likes of which haven’t been seen in this country since the 1960s. The suicide rate may go up, but until both the owners and the players are willing to negotiate, or more realistically, they both start losing money by the millions, the football season will be put on hold indefinitely.