NFL Lockout? It’s all on the owners

Greg Monahan

This is going to get worse before it gets better. There is no reason to be optimistic.

If you’re hoping to see football this fall, I hope you like the college game. Because, at least right now, you couldn’t get the NFL owners and players to agree on what shape the football should be, much less a collective bargaining agreement.

And it’s completely the fault of the owners.

Their hypocrisy is dumbfounding. The owners say ‘We want to protect our players!’ and then push to add two more games. They also say ‘We are poor! We need more money!’ and then build billion-dollar stadiums and report $9.3 billion in revenue for 2010.

Greed is the name of the game. An 18-game season, which the owners proposed, will bring in more money for the teams, but will inherently lead to more concussions and injuries league-wide. The mental and physical issues retired players have faced due to head trauma from their playing days have been well documented. Ex-NFLers have extremely high rates of dementia, depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by hits to the head.

I don’t think the cure for that is playing two more games each season.

The players like the status quo. They are ready to simply renew the current CBA and play football come September. And that seems logical considering the owners were making plenty of money with the old CBA in place, but are looking to shake down the players to a tune of a $1 billion decrease in player salaries.

The owners say they are losing money, but they are not. If they were, they could prove it by opening their books and showing the red ink. But they refuse to do so.

Even worse is the fact that the current CBA was supposed to last through 2012, but the owners reneged on the deal in 2008, unanimously agreeing to opt out after the 2010 season. When that happened three years ago, some experts were already circling March 2011 on the calendar, knowing that a new deal was likely not going to come without a lengthy battle between the NFL and NFLPA, and it hasn’t.

The unfortunate part is that, in the end, the owners will probably come out as the ‘winner’ in this entire debacle. Because they have a guaranteed broadcasting contract, which means even if there is not one single snap during what would have been the 2011 NFL season, the owners will still collect on the multi-billion dollar agreement between the league and the television networks.

So even without football in 2011, the owners could still make a profit.

On the other side, the players have little room to bargain. When the lockout began on March 11, it voided the players’ contracts and health coverage. So in addition to the owners’ ability to sit back and collect guaranteed broadcasting revenue, they also do not have to pay a penny of their players’ salaries or health care while the lockout is still in effect.

There is litigation in the works (Tom Brady v. National Football League) that is looking to end the lockout through the courts. However, even if the players were to win the case, the NFL would almost certainly appeal and draw out the process much longer than the scheduled kickoff date of September 7.

We could see anywhere from a full season of football in 2011 to a complete wasted year, like the NHL saw in 2004-2005. Right now it’s too early to tell, but my money is on the owners playing the waiting game until the players can hold out no longer. The 2011 NFL season is in major jeopardy, and it’s only going to get worse from here.

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