By MARLON SCOTT | Senior Staff Writer
I am one of what I assume to be many football fans that are disappointed, angry and slightly scared about the possibility of the next NFL season being delayed. It’s hard to believe the NFL, when it is arguably at an all time high in revenue and demand, can not do what it takes to keep its product going.
I remain hopeful, but recent reports are not encouraging. Here is the plot line for those who tuned in late or are confused about the sad situation.
In 2006, the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association agreed to a collective bargaining agreement which, up until now, stipulated such details as salary cap, players and owners division of revenue, benefits, number of games played, advertising etc.
In 2008, the owners opted out of the agreement.
This meant the two sides had to come to a new collective bargaining agreement before the previous one expired on Thursday, March 3.
Despite a one-week extension the two teams failed to negotiate a new agreement and as a result the player’s union decertified and the beginnings of a lockout have begun. However, the two sides are currently still trying to negotiate an agreement.
While there are several legal points in contention regarding a new collective bargaining agreement, two primary issues have been reported as the focal point of disagreement between the two sides.
First, the owners want to decrease player’s salaries and thus increase their share of the NFL’s revenue. They cite in a struggling economy where ticket and merchandise sales have decreased, the increasing player’s’ salaries is an unreasonable expense. The players, obviously, do not want a pay cut and also believe the owners are not losing income, citing the multiple broadcasting deals they have including a new $31 million dollar deal with Direct TV. In addition, the players discovered the owners had included as part of their broadcasting contracts, guaranteed money paid to the NFL regardless of a player strike. During mediations, U.S. District Judge David Doty declared the NFL violated the collective bargaining agreement when they made deals that secured ongoing payments during a work stoppage.
The second major issue is owners want to increase the NFL season from 16 to 18 games. Players do not want to play any extra games, especially with a salary decrease. They also believe the increase in games contradicts the NFL’s recent new focus on player safety.
Once negotiations and federal mediation failed, the NFLPA decertified. This means the union ceases to be the collective bargaining agent for the players and allows them to file individual class actions. As a result, 10 NFL players including Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning filed antitrust lawsuits against the NFL.
The two sides have met and continue to negotiate. However, representatives of the former NFLPA have accused owners of making unreasonable offers, citing evidence owners have yet to release.
Despite denials by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, it has been reported owners are taking steps to begin a lockout. The difference between a lockout and a strike is management imposes a lockout by literally locking the doors to keep all employees out. A strike is a work stoppage initiated by employees.
What does this mean for fans?
If a lockout takes place everyone not under contract becomes a free agent, but no one can be signed under a new contract. For example, when the draft takes place teams can contact the players they drafted, but will not be able to sign them to a contract under lockout.
Right now it appears as if both sides are saying they are trying to negotiate in good faith, but the other side will not cooperate. Both sides have taken legal actions that imply an agreement will not be found soon. The legal actions could be only posturing to force cooperation, but all legal actions take time and for every day it takes to come to an agreement another day has to be added to implement whatever resolutions occur.
In short, the clock is ticking and the window to continue NFL football without any delay is closing faster than a rookie running back being chased by Raven’s linebacker Ray Lewis.