NFL Labor Peace

The NFL can face a lockout next season. The dominant story in football in the coming months may be the potential for the no football in 2011, a season potentially washed out by NFL owners locking out NFL players from playing games due to the inability to agree on a CBA govern the business of football. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith remains insistent that teams reveal their financial statements before a deal can be reached.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has refused to characterize the current state of the talks. NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, a surprise winner in the search to replace Upshaw, is utilizing his dramatic presentation style learned from litigating and navigating the Washington legal and power circles to convince fans and the media that the players just want to play.

Why are NFL billionaire owners gearing up to square off against millionaire players? Owners say a struggling economy has hurt their sources of revenue, citing a decrease in season-ticket sales in some markets. The Washington Post is also reporting that the NFLPA union may sue NFL owners for colluding on pay and contracts.

The NFL Players Association is telling its players to prepare for a lockout next year, according to the Denver Post. The NFL and NFLPA have been engaged in contentious negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. Players argue that they are not in a true partnership absent an ownership stake in franchises whose values have increased exponentially over the past decade and a half.

Players would theoretically be much more financially stressed in the short term, and the relatively short career span of NFL players would make the prospect of missing games even more unpalatable. Players are paid 17 times throughout the season; there typically is an additional stipend for offseason workouts that is included in each player’s contract. Players are resigned to a season-long lockout when the current contract ends next March. Owners, citing the fact that similar provisions have been included in past TV deals, seem to think the players have little chance of prevailing. Owners, meanwhile, have to get past the perception that they were duped into taking a poor deal in 2006 and try to leverage a deal with the union.

The current deal expires in early March, and both sides have recognized the possibility of a work stoppage. As the deadline for striking a new deal nears, things will likely come to a head on or around March 1 of next year, each camp is preparing for battle on numerous fronts. For the most part, the owners are unified in their belief that they agreed to a lousy deal when the current CBA was extended in 2006, and that the players currently receive too great a share of their adjusted gross revenues. No matter what happens we will all be watching.