Lockout Looming

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As the confetti is still being picked up, the champagne still being washed up off the locker room floor, and Green Bay Packers still absorbing the shock of being deemed “World Champions”, rumors of an NFL lockout still linger in the air.  After what was an instant classic as far as Super Bowls go, the idea that players and fans may have to wait two years for the next one is disheartening.  How could such a prosperous industry and fan favorite just take a year off?  Reality is, many fans aren’t even concerned and can’t really fathom this actually happening so they don’t worry about it.  A study done by the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) showed that only 33 percent of “hardcore NFL fans” have the lockout on their radar.  Little seems to be known by fans about this scare of a lockout, so what does it really involve?

Basically when the lockout is broken down into its simplest form you have an argument between two sides, the owners of the individual teams and the NFLPA.  At first glance what many forget about the NFL is that it really isn’t just a sport, it’s a business.  And it is as much of a business for the players as it is the owners of the teams.  Unfortunately like most jobs in life, when it comes down to it some owners are strictly in the business for the money.  Truth is, the NFL is a widely prosperous industry and much like other industries in the world the recent economic times have brought up concerns.  Every couple years the owners, represented by commissioner Roger Goodell, and the NFLPA, represented by executive director DeMaurice Smith, must come to an agreement on what is called the CBA or Collective Bargaining Agreement.  This agreement lays out the logistics for numerous aspects of the league from player and owner salaries to TV contract deals.  Many will agree that what started this trouble was the CBA that was settled in 2006 when the owners signed what has been deemed by them a lousy deal.

The current arguments are over three different topics, the percentage of total revenue made by players and owners, the idea of an 18 game schedule, and rookie contracts.  The revenue struggle being the most important gets slightly complicated.  In simple form each team makes a certain amount of revenue every year.  Under the current CBA the players are allocated about 60 percent of the total revenue.  The problem is with so many owners taking on more capital expenditures such as new state of the art stadiums, they are demanding a larger share of the pie.  The other aspect that plays a part in this and is unknown by many, is that the current CBA implements what is called a “revenue sharing plan.”  This plan states that the leagues 15 most profitable franchises must give money to 17 teams in the league that earn the least.  While this ensures the financial stability of the league as a whole, it also gives owners incentive to lower their revenues in order to make sure they will receive money from other teams.  The scary thing is that the owners can still be profitable even through a lockout which allows them to wait it out till they arrive at a deal they like.  Unlike the players who would receive no wages in a lockout, the owners would still bring in revenue because of the numerous new TV contracts that were recently signed.  Because no games would be played their costs would be cut allowing them to still operate for a profit.

The 18 game schedule is probably the biggest fighting point for the players.  Obviously from a business aspect an 18 game schedule means a significant increase in revenue for the franchises.  Unfortunately, it also means a significant increase on the toll of every player’s body in the NFL.  Many star players throughout the NFL have fought against this because of its relation to increased injury, shortened career spans, and long lasting effects of injury after their NFL careers.  Players argue that not only are the owners asking them to take more money, but they are also trying to get them to work more.

The last major point of argument in creating the new CBA is the creation of a rookie wage scale.  The current CBA allows players to be signed for ridiculous amounts of money with a large portion of it being guaranteed.  Last year’s first overall pick Sam Bradford, signed a deal that guaranteed him at a minimum 50 million dollars.  To put that into perspective, Tom Brady also signed a new deal this year that guaranteed him 48 million dollars.  The problem with such deals is that unlike the money, the success rate for first round players isn’t guaranteed.  At times this leads to franchises paying players enormous sums of money to sit on the bench, or in Jamarcus Russel’s case not play at all.  When the new CBA is created look to see a rookie wage scale similar to the one found in the NBA.

What needs to be realized by fans is that this lockout could become very real with March, the deadline for the new CBA, rapidly approaching.  Many analysts have said that they haven’t seen owners this serious about a CBA since 2004 in the NHL, which hockey fans will note led to a lockout for the 04-05 NHL season.  For owners there is a fine line between greed and doing what is right for the progression of the league.  What really needs to be kept in the back of everyone’s mind are not only the players starting in the fantasy lineups on Sundays, but the estimated 115,000 jobs that would be effected, the 160 million dollars that each NFL city would lose, and the millions of fans with die hard passion and love for the game of football.

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