Last week, Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch told the class of incoming NFL players that there’s a “100 percent chance” of a lockout.
This week, a voice with much greater authority as far as the players’ position goes is saying the same thing.
NFLPA Executive Director De Smith is bracing for an ownership-imposed work stoppage.
“I am absolutely convinced that the default plan is to lock us out in 2011,” Smith told the union’s player representatives earlier this week. “If I’m right and we’re not ready, they will test you. They believe this is the year to break the union.”
So, basically, if the owners are bluffing about a lockout (and we still sort of think they are), the union seems to be willing to call their bluff.
Unless that, too, is a bluff.
But here’s the reality, in our view. The league will drive an ultra-hard bargain if the league perceives that the union isn’t prepared to take a lockout. So the union needs to project a confident state of readiness, in the hopes that the owners will refrain from the proverbial nuclear option.
Part of the union’s plan to prepare for a lockout is to institute a “25/25 Campaign,” pursuant to which all players save 25 percent of their net income for the next two seasons.
“It is absolutely doable,” Texans player rep Chester Pitts said. “The minimum salary for the NFL puts you in the top one percentile of salary and wages of the United States. So yes, it can be done. It is just going to take guys like me going to the four or five guys on the team that could be at risk, sitting down with them and making sure they understand the importance of putting this amount of money away.”
The fact that, as Pitts explains it, players making the minimum are within the top earning percentile in the country serves only to highlight the reality that neither management nor labor will be scoring sympathy points with the general public if a lockout occurs. Everyone is making plenty of money, and the only way that either side will make less of it is if they allow their greed to jeopardize the immense popularity the NFL currently enjoys.