I think DeMaurice's face pretty much sums it up. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
So the NFL Players Association has decertified and its representatives, which includes three of the best QBs in the league, have filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL to try to prevent the owners from giving them the grown up equivalent of a kindergarten "timeout." The owners then turned right around and gave them that timeout. Both sides are saying the other side is being unreasonable. Both sides say they have the fan's best interests at heart.
Really? Let's examine exactly what this argument is about and how invested the fans are in the topics the two sides are willing to delay or cancel the 2011 NFL season for.
I don't have the time or resources to dig down to the nitty gritty legal crap going on. Thankfully, the internet is full of people who get paid to do that very act. That'll make this much easier on you and me.
First off, know that the lockout is official as of midnight this morning. What are the ramifications? Kinda scary, especially for the players.
A lockout is a right management has to shut down a business when a CBA expires. It means there can be no communication between the teams and current NFL players; no players - including those drafted in April - can be signed; teams won't pay health insurance for players; players are not allowed in team facilities.
If the lockout lasts long enough, it would lead to the cancellation of games.
Since the NFL is a contract based employer, they have every right to do this. This means that players will not be paid, as they normally would, for any of the normal offseason activities that would be scheduled in the coming months. This also means that every single one of the players "drafted" in about a month won't be able to sign or even practice with the teams that select them, giving them a huge disadvantage when football resumes.
If you've been living under a rock the past few days (I doubt it. Falcons fans are notoriously clever), here's what the two sides were arguing about:
- Money. Essentially, the players wanted a larger share of the $9,000,000,000 dollars in revenue the NFL annually sees.
- Rookie Wage Scale. Let's say some young, hotshot college graduate is hired into your department at work and you've been there say...five years. You find out later that young hotshot, who hasn't even proved himself, is making ten times what you make and he just started. Would you be mad? Of course you would.
- Better Health Benefits. It's a dangerous game, for sure.
- Retired player fund. I've seen far too many specials on former footballers that are now almost vegtables because of their involvement in a violent sport.
- 18 Game Season. More football is always a good thing, but for players, that'd mean high chance of injury. For owners? Two more NFL games to squeeze money out of.
So for almost the past two years, that's been the crux of it all. The two sides got very close to resolving all of this until one crucial point came up: financial ledger transparency. I'll let Peter King sum it up for you.
... [T]he players' union never felt a need to come off its core negotiating tenet for the past two years: full and unfettered access to the league's audited financial statements.
... [T]he NFL offered the players to have an independent auditor -- to be determined by both sides -- study the audited financial statements. The independent auditor would have ... reported to the union the year-by-year profit-and-loss statements for each team. ...[T]hat would have shown whether teams were becoming less profitable in the past two or three years, a core argument of the ownership. ... But that wasn't good enough for the players.
It all boils down to money. The players, who make between $320,000 and "A small country's GDP" per year each, want more of the pie. The owners don't want to give up any more of that pie. The owners are arguing that they're losing more money every year (even when the NFL ratings are the highest they've ever been, meaning that the $4,000,000,000 the NFL earns from TV networks per year is going to inevitably increase). The players don't believe them.
My dad would call this whole thing "one big hissy." He's right. This is a rich man's battle over rich man money. The players think they have leverage. The owners know they have the leverage; and the owners are right. Look at it this way: the players are rich because of the NFL. The owners were rich before the NFL. The Falcons' owner is a co-founder of Home Depot, a store that's in just about every medium to large size town in the country. Do you really think Arthur Blank goes to bed at night fretting over the fact that there's no football? Sure, we know he loves the team, the fans, etc, but this man is a multi-billionaire. He will not sweat over a lost season.
The players, if they've managed their money well, won't hurt too much either, especially if any endorsements continue despite the lockout.
So yeah, they're keeping the dissapointment of the fans in mind, right? Wrong. Had either side truly took one minute to really consider the fans' place in all of this (ie, we, the "poor" ones, are a large percentage of that $9 billion in revenue), they would have realized that this is the worst thing they can do.
We, the fans, are what gave them the best ratings this past year. We made the Super Bowl the most watched thing in the entire world and the money generated from ads, tickets, merch, and every other peice of material relating to that game could probably have taken paid off every one of this article's readers' debts combined. We, the FANS, are what made the NFL what it is today.
What do we get for it? Rich men bickering with filthy rich men over a $9 billion dollar money pile. The chance for little to no football in 2011. We, the fans, the ones who made the NFL the most popular sport in this country, the ones that pour our hard earned dollars into a silly game so that rich men may become richer and filthy rich mens' wallets can grow fatter, were completely ignored.
The NFL and its players have done more to harm the game than help it with this labor hissy. When football resumes, will it still be popular? Of course. Will it still have the gargantuan momentum it had going into the offseason? If this lasts long enough, I sincerely doubt it.