Post Classifieds

The ‘Wright’ Stuff: NFL labor deal may ruin 2011 season for fans

By Joel Wright
On September 14, 2010

Some of us realize it. Some don't. Heck, some of us are in denial so thick that it's pouring out of our ears.

The reality is, there may not be NFL football to watch next year.

Due to an expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement that ends next March, there may be a lot of football fans that are very depressed on Sundays next year.

Why is this happening? It should be easy for this problem to be settled, right?

Wrong. Apparently, there is a big dispute between the owners and the NFL Players Association about who is getting the right sized piece of a very big pie.

The owners are definitely the group forcing the issue, which seems ludicrous, because they're billionaires for god's sake, but they do have a decent selling point.

Before I go deeper though, it should be understood that the owners are ultimately represented by the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and likewise, the NFLPA is headed by Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.

When the last CBA was extended in 2006, it probably happened at the worst possible time. Former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue was closing in on the end of his run, and through 17 years, he kept labor wars at bay.

The late Gene Upshaw, who was serving as the NFLPA executive director, struck up a deal with Tagliabue that gave the players almost 60 percent of total revenue, and created a revenue-sharing component that required the top-15 revenue teams to pay into an $850-$900 million pool for player's salaries.

That's a lot to swallow, but basically the players received more money, and at the time it was like the owners sacrificed some money to save the salary cap, and now they're regretting it.

Whether Upshaw caught Tagliabue trying to save his legacy of keeping labor peace, or it was the best way seen fit to protect the salary cap, the owners now feel they were slighted, and want major changes.

The main beef owners have with the revenue sharing is that some teams not in the top-15 are making a ton of money off of new stadium revenue. This has resulted in teams fighting to stay in the bottom-17, and gain more money. It makes it seem like some owners had begun caring less about winning, and more about their cash flow.

The players understand what the owners are upset about, but they also risk their health every week for those same owners, and believe they're taking more of a risk with their lives than the owners are with their money.

The average NFL career only lasts three years, so it's more understandable that the players want their money, and futures, protected.

If and when the new CBA is put in place, there could be some changes that will change the landscape of the NFL that we're used to.

There could be an 18-game regular season, which would alter the process of teams' off-season training schedules, and even more importantly, give longevity to an already brutal 16-game regular season. This gives more risk to injury, and will have a big, possibly negative impact throughout the league.

Also the rookie pay scale will probably be altered, resembling an NBA-style rookie wage scale. That is huge, because No. 1 picks are being paid more and more than veterans who actually played to earn their money.

In the end, the people most affected are the fans. We don't have millions (or billions) of dollars to sit on in the event of a work stoppage. Sundays provide a safe haven for those who struggle through a long work week, so the thought or rich men fighting over who gets to be richer leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.

Both sides of this argument have made little progress in making a deal so far, so don't be shocked if that bitter taste is still there in the fall of next year, or beyond.

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