The NFL’s Labor Negotiation – Seriously !?!?

If you’re a big-time football fan you know that the National Football League is in the midst of a collective bargaining crisis.  The collectcive bargaining agreement (CBA) between the players’ union and the league expires tonight at midnight eastern which puts the fall’s season in jeopardy.  The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service is currently mediating the last minute negotiations, but the mediator recently released a note saying that the side were still far apart.   The talking heads in the sports media are slobbering all over the story, and the rumor is that the league is going to lock out the players once the CBA expires.

I have no sympathy for a bunch of people who stand to lose billions because of their respective egos and greed.  Here are the issues as they have been played out in the media:

  • Splitting $9 billion in revenue
  • Moving from a 16 game season to an 18 game season
  • Installing a rookie wage scale
  • Retirement benefits

The big issue here is the revenue split.  The owners opted to end the CBA early because they thought they had agreed to a bad financial deal.  The other issues should be resolved easily enough – having rookies make more money than established stars (the current system) is crazy; with all the emphasis on head injuries and concussions any talk of more games (and therefore more head injuries) is nuts; and like gladiators of old, retired players are left to handle their inevitable very expensive health problems on their own despite their sacrifices for the game.  The specifics of the revenue split (appx. 60-40 favoring players) are discussed in many fora, so no need to mention them here other than pointing out that there is an important question as to which revenues go into the pool for splitting. 

Neither side is particularly easy to warm up to.   Owners have held communities hostage (if we don’t have a new stadium we’re moving), made bad business decisions on overly extravagant stadiums, and routinely fleece their fans on ticket prices that go up year after year.  People go to games to see players play.  And since the amount of money here is staggering, the players get handsomely paid, especially compared to their fans, and if they’re in the league long enough (5 years – not an easy feat) they get a good pension.  The league is great when it comes to controlling the media, so my bet is that the players end up looking like whiners, especially when a couple of high profile players complain about not feeding their families after they’ve made a couple of million the last two years.

SERIOUSLY FOLKS !?!?  You have the most popular sports product in the country, and you can’t figure out how to split the proceeds?  What a bunch of babies.  That said, I expect that the season will be saved soon enough, especially since the owners just lost their $4 billion ace in the hole – payment from the tv networks whether there’s a season or not.  And, the players’ union is looking to decertify itself this evening so individual players can sue the league under an antitrust theory (which I’m not familiar with).  Unless there’s something here we’re not familiar with, it looks like no one has a good BATNA and without financial info for players and the teams, it’s not clear whose is worse.  Therefore, I expect this to be resolved sometime this summer, just in time to miraculously save $9 billion in revenue.  And those in the media who are worth their weight in salt believe so as well.  If we’re wrong, lots of people will have to satisfy their football fix with college football, much like they did in 1982.

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