The NFL Labor Dispute
For people who are not aware, the National Football League’s Collective Bargaining Agreement—essentially a contract between NFL owners and the Player’s union—ends on March 3rd, 2011. The owners voted to opt out of the deal at the end of this this year; and they seem pretty determined to either get a new deal done on their terms, or “lockout” the players—meaning they will not hold practices or games that the players in the union can participate in. MEANING NO FOOTBALL IN 2011-2012. Now, according to Plunkett Research, the NFL is a 7.8-BILLION DOLLAR industry—so some would ask why the owners and players, “why let the dispute get to this point?” “Why not just compromise a little for the sake of saving your golden goose, $8 BILLION product?” Here are a couple of items on the table that I think the owners and players need to agree upon to improve the game—
1) Rookie Wage Scale. QB Jamarcus Russell, the Raiders’ 1st round draft pick in 2007, will cost the Raiders $3 MIL against their salary cap in 2011—and he hasn’t payed since 2009. Patriots QB Tom Brady, of 3 Super Bowl wins, made $3.5 million this season. In fact, Russell has made $39.8 MIL in his 4-year career, or about $2.2 MILLION PER TD PASS. This is a broken system. Now, the players’ union will argue that owners waste money on veteran free agent players also; but there has to be a system that compensates players based on their performance in the NFL; and b) prevents one bad draft pick from handcuffing a franchise salary-cap-wise for the next 4-5 years. I think one of the trade-offs for a rookie salary cap will be shorter rookie contracts; meaning not so many 6 and 7-year deals at the top of the draft.
2) Improvements to the Pension/Health Coverage for Retirees. This is one of the issues that I personally go back and forth on, the whole player safety thing. With a few exceptions, ex-players who helped build the league into what it is today have been screwed when it comes to receiving benefits after they leave the game. My issues are three-fold here:
a) The the Chicago Bears, the NFL’s 9th highest-valued franchise according to Forbes, brought in $241 MIL in 2009 (2010 numbers are not out yet), not including the NFL revenue -sharing income, which is a little over $100 MIL. The player expense, which include current players bonuses and benefits, was $137 MIL. Sure, you will have expenses for all your front office and coaching staff, your stadium deal, travel, etc; but there seems to be enough money there to chip in and help the ex-players who got your team’s value over $1 BILLION DOLLARS—wouldn’t you think?
b) The NFLPA makes over $16 MIL in revenues EACH YEAR, from players’ dues. How is this money not able to sustain pension-eligible, ex-NFLers?
c) The MINIMUM salary in the NFL is $310,000—for rookies. This number increases for veterans, based on how many seasons they have in the NFL, all the way up to over $800,000 for a 10-year veteran. The average salary in the US for a college graduate is $46,000; or ONE-SEVENTH of what an NFL rookie makes. If your average person is expected to have healthcare and save for retirement off of $46,000 per year, shouldn’t an NFL player be expected to off of $310,000?
I am not sure who I would blame more for the current state of NFL retiree benefits; but I think it is safe to say that all sides could do more to make improvements here.
3) Health Concerns for CURRENT NFL Players. Another issue I waffle on. The NFL and Owners preach player safety, but then want to extend the season 2 extra games. The NFL fines players for hits they deem illegal; but then they sell the pictures of those hits on the NFL website to make money. The players complain about protecting themselves, but most of them play without some sort of ‘required’ padding or protection because they want to look cool—you see players every week without mouthpieces or thigh and knee pads—no one dressed with padding like Eric Dickerson.
4) Revenue Sharing between Owners and Players. The Owners are asking the players to take a reduced cut of the revenue the NFL brings in, to the tune of 18%, to make up for financial losses through these tough economic times. The Players want to see the Owners’ financials, to verify those losses; and so far the Owners have refused. Speculations on what these losses are resulting from range from alleged ‘bonuses’ the owners are giving themselves to expenses from the huge stadiums that are being built. One thing is certain, however—unless the Owners have a change of heart, and open their books, this will be the toughest aspect to get either side to move toward the middle on.