On Tuesday, NFL team owners unanimously voted to cut short the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Player’s Union, which will force a return to the bargaining block in an attempt by the owners to avoid playing the 2010 season without a salary cap.
Worse case scenario: an agreement is not met by then and the players refuse to play in 2011. That hasn’t happened since 1987 and should never, I repeat, never happen again.
Right now, the player’s union has agreed to play the 2008 and 2009 seasons with a salary cap, but not after that. According to The New York Times, the owners had until November to decide if they wanted to cut short the collective bargaining agreement, but decided to do it now rather than make it a distraction when the season is in full swing.
“Really, there was no reason not to do it now, because it isn’t working for us,” Broncos owner Pat Bowlen told The Times. “We might as well get that part of it out of the way, so we can hopefully get into some serious negotiations and get a deal.”
The owners’ argument for having or continuing a salary cap is strictly economics and their decision is a sign of the economic conditions … well, everyone is facing right now. Higher fuel and maintenance costs are taking away from the owners’ bottom line. They know they have to spend money on players to make money, but the question is how much?
The owners’ decision to go back to the bargaining table was no surprise to Gene Upshaw, executive director of the player’s union. In a written response he simply said, “Thanks. What a surprise.”
The players currently receive close to 60 percent of the league’s revenues, a number they have vowed not to go below. Last year that amounted to $4.5 billion. Doing some quick math, that means the NFL netted close to $8 billion last year. They have an economy all their own.
However, if an uncapped season is played, players must wait six years to become free agents as opposed to four with the current salary cap in place.
I am not sure whose side I fall on in this matter. I can understand the costs incurred by the owners when running a professional sports franchise, with more than half of their money going to the players. On the other hand, aren’t the players the ones who make the game what it is? If not, then what is? The stadiums? Hardly. (Denver’s Invesco Field serves as proof of that. It’s nothing compared to the old Mile High.) Team colors? Nope. I guess the players do deserve the money they are asking for.
I also believe that in becoming an NFL player, you give up some of your personal freedoms. Actions in your private life have consequences on the field. Most teachers, cops and journalists can go home and smoke a joint after work without any repercussions, but Ricky Williams can’t because he’ll have a piss test the next day. Perhaps they should be compensated for this loss of privacy.
The player’s union and the owners need to come up with a payment scheme for top draft picks, most of whom aren’t as effective as the veteran players, who get paid a lot less money. Think of Matt Leinart, who got a huge deal to sign with Arizona, but couldn’t get a win to save his golden ass. The NFL payment scheme should be more of a bell curve, where the newbies get paid less. As they get better and more experienced, they get paid more. And after they peak and head into their twilight years, get paid less. (Of course everything has an exception, and such would have been the case for the great John Elway. His salary in this scheme would have no bell shape, just a constant upward angle.) Granted, this is coming from an economics flunky who can’t do long division, but I make up for that in common sense.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is also throwing around the idea of eliminating the fourth preseason game and adding a 17th regular-season game to make more money off of television contracts.
Now this is what I am talking about, probably the best sense Goodell has made … well … ever. I hate preseason and another regular-season game is what we all need. More competitive football.
So for now football charges on with an uncertain future, as does the country, in economic terms. Both the players and the owners must consider the impacts on the national economy if a worker stoppage becomes an issue in 2011. Without football, and considering the horrid state of baseball right now, what will this country turn to … soccer? Seriously though?