We don’t take Saturdays off. And neither does the ongoing labor baby mama drama between the NFL and the players’ union.
The NFL has posted at its labor-centric website, NFLLabor.com, a set of questions and answers regarding the Special Master proceeding recently filed by the NFLPA, which attacks the league’s newest round of television contracts, which reportedly provide ongoing payments to the teams in the event of a work stoppage.
The union calls the provisions “lockout insurance,” and for good reason. By ensuring that the money will continue to flow from CBS, FOX, NBC, ESPN, and DirecTV, men like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones will be able to service the massive debt that comes from building a $1.1 billion stadium. (And, as always, nothing we say here regarding the issue reflects the opinions or beliefs of our network partner, NBC.)
This necessarily gives the league more leverage against the players, since it gives the league a much larger war chest during any work stoppage. While, as the league acknowledges, the money from the networks would have to be repaid with interest, the fact that the deals run through 2013 means that, as a practical matter, any repayment obligation easily could be tied up in the next round of broadcast-rights deals, making a true dollar-for-dollar repayment unlikely.
The league’s Q&A also glosses over the union’s strongest point. Every term in a contract of this nature has value. Though the league did a great job of growing once again the total revenue, even more money could have been generated, if the league had not insisted on ongoing payments during a work stoppage.
Put simply, that term has a tangible value. And that value could have been converted into more money shared by the teams and the players.
The Q&A also contains a bit of news. “The NFLPA filed this proceeding without even reviewing the contracts
that they are challenging,” the league says. “The NFL repeatedly offered those contracts
to the NFLPA’s lawyers for their review, but the NFLPA refused to agree
to standard confidentiality guarantees for those proprietary documents.
As a result, many of their allegations are speculative and inaccurate.”
The union surely will get the contracts within the confines of the Special Master proceeding, and both sides surely will continue to disagree regarding what the contracts say, what the contracts mean, and whether the league could have and/or should have obtained more money to be shared with the players now in lieu of the ability to generate enough money during a work stoppage to make payments on debts arising from owning a team and/or building a stadium.
And this could end up being a key battle in the broader war. If the union wins this one, it will be much harder for the owners to pay their bills without football being played.
Indeed, victory could prompt the union to quit worrying about a lockout — and to start thinking about a strike.