Fans on Losing End of CBA Negotiations


November 22, 2010

Billionaires arguing with Millionaires. That is the way that the current CBA negotiations have been described. Both feel that they are being cheated. Both feel that they are not getting a proportional piece of the cash filled pie that is created by NFL revenue. The truth be told, it’s the hard working middle class fans that are being cheated even though they are the ones ultimately financing the NFL.

At last March’s NFL owners meeting in Orlando, Fla., the Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was adamant in his plea to the other owners to “take back our league”. The CBA deal that just expired gave the players 59.6% of the total revenue and implemented a revenue-sharing plan in which the league’s 15 highest-earning franchises subsidized the 17 teams that earned the least. All the owners would probably agree that they accepted a terrible deal when this CBA was extended in 2006, but it is a handful of aggressive powerbrokers and Roger Goodell puppet masters (Robert Kraft, Pat Bowlen, Jerry Jones, Jerry Richardson) who are attempting to formulate a CBA that will cover the investments they have made on stadiums and other capital expenditures.

It’s entirely possible that the majority of owners could ultimately attempt an approach that would prevent a strike, but these four owners are all for forcing an owner-favorable deal down the throats of the players. This is likely to be accomplished at fan expense, in the form of a lockout.

The owners do have something of a point, but really only have themselves to blame. Revenue sharing only works if all the owners play fair. The current system fails to recognize the reality that some teams such as the Bengals have little to no stadium expenditures while other franchises had to take out huge loans for new stadiums or to renovate their existing stadium. This forces some high revenue owners like Dallas, with heavy stadium debt, into sending a portion of their revenue towards those low end franchises, who are in reality making a greater profit because of low overhead. Teams like the Bengals are intentionally keeping their revenues low to stay in the lower 17 and maximize their profits. That’s great for the owners of those lower tier teams but terrible for their fans, who can see the end result of low overhead in terms of wins/losses for their teams.

The players on the other hand are rather dubious to the owners concerns. They are very skeptical when they hear the owners talking about “financial risk” when in truth, the owners are still refusing to open their books. They want to see the actual profit margin. They want to know if the percentage they are being offered comes from legitimate numbers. As far as risks, from the players viewpoint, the excuse of “risks” fall flat when these same owners are agreeing with the commissioners bid for an 18 game season , raising the chance for the players to “risk” their very health and livelihood. All that being said, the owners have some leverage, when they point out that players consistently insist on “holding out” for a better contract after having a good year but would never consider a lower contract after a year in which they didn’t meet team expectations. The players, like the rest of us, should be forced to play out their contract, without the ability to hold out, before the can make demands that owners open their books.

The truth is that the owners have a short term advantage. If there is a lockout the owners would have a good portion of their expenses cut by not paying out players salaries. They would also still receive television revenue, per their agreement, even though they will eventually have to pay that money back in the form of future games.

Muddying the waters even more is the Commissioners insistence on making changes that could drastically affect the CBA. Beyond a doubt the majority of players are not happy with the new interpretation of the head to head hits, and even less happy about the fines being levied against them. What is even more disconcerting is Goodell’s wish to raise revenue by extending the season by two games. Under normal conditions this would be a serious point of contention between players and owners. In the midst of CBA negotiations, it is ridiculous.

The players already recognize that Goodell is in the pocket of some of the owners. This summer while visiting training camps, Goodell was interrogated by players. The Browns’ Scott Fujita, who is on the executive committee of the NFLPA asked Goodell “What do the owners want? What is it going to take to get a deal done?”

Goodell replied, “I can’t answer that.”

Fujita was incensed. “You’re the NFL commissioner. You’re here as the mouthpiece for the owners, and you can’t even tell us what they want? Don’t you think you need to start giving us some answers?”

One report states the NFL players are now referring to Goodell as “Roger the Dodger”. At a couple of training camp stops, Goodell, and even some of the team representatives, had to cut the meeting short due to players literally cursing at him. This commissioner has squarely placed himself into a position that exasperates the problem instead of being a liaison between the two sides.

So what is the answer? There is probably a win-win scenario here. The players have said that they might be willing to entertain the thought of an 18 game season IF another bye week is added to allow players the ability to rest and heal. They have also said that any extension to the season should be reason enough to add 4-5 players to each teams roster. A new contract could involve rewarding the owners for stadium or team investment risks which should stabilize revenue among owners. The establishment of a rookie salary cap and the additional of the two games would gain the owners revenue and veteran players would not be cut or asked to take a cut in pay to make salary cap room for extreme rookie contracts.

Until then, the real losers of this mess are the fans.

The owners, the players, and the commissioner seem to forget that the source of their incomes come from middle class Americans who rely upon the NFL as an escape from the demands of the work week. It is a means to temporarily forget about all the responsibilities and the deadlines of life and we are willing to spend money for the diversion. The last thing the average fan wants to deal with while watching his favorite team, is a storyline about economics and work stoppage: the very thing he is trying to get away from until Monday. In these economic times, when many fans are unemployed or are working extra hours to make ends meet, don’t insult us with sad stories of who is being cheated.

So the bottom line is for the ears of the owners, players and the commissioner. The fans pay the salaries and now are having to pay the price. To be frank…we don’t want to hear it. Fix the problem.

© 2010 Steelers Universe
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