League, union are failing the fans, the game, and themselves


The NFL and the NFLPA are moving closer and closer to the expiration of their labor deal, and both sides are far more interested in sniping at each other than in trying to work out a deal.

Less than two weeks after reportedly productive meetings focused on a possible 18-game season, the rhetoric and the red herrings continue, with no progress being made toward giving us what NFLPA spokesman George Atallah described to me a week ago as the ultimate Christmas present for the fans — labor peace on earth, or at least on the frozen tundra.

Instead, we’re all more likely to get coal and/or reindeer road apples.

Both sides are failing.  They’re failing the fans, the game, and themselves.

The latest skirmish comes from a conference call conducted Friday by the NFLPA, in which the ongoing parade of lockout horribles was supported by a hired-gun economist who talked about the obvious reality that, if games aren’t played in 2011, money won’t be spent in hotels and bars and other places in the vicinity of football stadiums that see increased business when games are played there.

The league made matters worse by responding with a gratuitous taunt.  “The fairy tales continue,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.

None of this is going to help get a deal done.  Instead, both sides are hoping to conjure support from a public that isn’t taking sides, no matter how hard the parties try to make this into a series of red state/blue state wedge issues.

So when the union tells us all the obvious about the impact of not playing games, the union wastes its time, the media’s time, and the time of anyone with the misfortune of reading about it.  When the league offers up a snarky response, the NFL compounds the wasted time by making it even harder for these two partners to ever quit acting like enemies.

Meanwhile, when we tried earlier this week to get Aiello and NFLPA spokesman George Atallah to tell us when the two sides would next be meeting to work on a new deal and whether any progress had been made toward blocking out multiple weeks before the end of the year aimed at conducting intensive talks, and neither side wanted to say anything.

“You told us to quit talking publicly,” Aiello said in reference to our proposed to-do list for Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who seems to be willing to take the lead in trying to get a deal done by the end of December.  Atallah likewise refrained from comments, but in response to an e-mail sent by PFT this afternoon asking him why they are focusing on broader economic impacts rather than negotiating, Atallah said, “We are willing to ‘lock-in’ and always have been.”

The league has yet to make a similarly clear commitment.  We’ll assume that, unless the league unequivocally accepts the union’s offer, there’s no genuine desire to try to salvage their mutual placement on the naughty list.

34 responses to “League, union are failing the fans, the game, and themselves

  1. So much sound and fury signifying nothing.

    I keep hearing that you used to be a lawyer. I don’t know what kind of law you practiced, but it certainly couldn’t have involved much negotiating.

    No negotiation this contentious ever gets resolved until the 11th hour. And the 11th hour in this case is not when the CBA expires, but critical league activities such as the draft approach.

    There is no chance either side will begin making the types of concessions necessary to get a deal done until the 2011 season is actually threatened and that is 6 months away. The draft could easily be postponed to as late as June and we could still have a season.

    This process is right where one would expect it to be when nothing is really at risk yet.

  2. The phrase “Frozen Tundra” is effing redundant and yet all the dunderhead media tools keep on keepin’ on …

  3. C’mon, NFL and NFLPA — if you don’t come to some sort of an agreement, do you realize the GENERAL PUBLIC will have to deal with Courtland Finnegan next year? Right now, he’s only a danger to YOUR society. Please don’t spring his lame, egocentric ass on the rest of us!

  4. As to public support for both sides, that will not happen. And the side that won’t receive the public support, is the owners. For the most part, it’s because the average American can’t own a football team. We work a grueling 60 hour week or worse, and our release when the weather turns cold, is football. So we cannot side with the Owners, because the consensus from my friends and fellow football fans is it’s them that is stopping the new CBA. While that is not completely the case, we tend to take the side of the actual workers, not the ones sitting in their luxury boxes, counting their money.

    And hearing they are throwing jabs at each other, and posturing for each others benefit, is very disheartening. Since us as fans don’t have an inside track, we feel as if we are the only ones who care whether football will be played on Sundays next year.

    No one in their right mind can actually believe that both sides are going to be completely happy. I’m sure compromises are being worked out, and you guys do give us a ton of info we would not have if we relied on other outlets, but this is still ridiculous.

    If you want two extra games, the season is going to have to be 3 weeks longer, making it a 20 week season. Two bye-weeks, 72 players per team, increase game checks by 8% per week, with more attainable incentives. Pressure the NCAA to help put a stop to the illegal hits, and fine money, instead of going to charity alone, go to a medical fund, and r&d for more safety.

    Union, quit threatening decertification for the sake of a lawsuit, because I feel it will end the NFL as we know it. There’s no guarantee that the Union will be recertified, and be the same as it was.

  5. I think the leagues response is appropriate. If viewed from the liberal mind, a company’s ONLY task and mission is to provide health insurance and paychecks for people. Not to make a profit. This economy has changed and we are not likely to see the go go years of the 80s, 90s and a few years ago. Teams WILL fold. These other ‘minor’ leagues wont make it. The Barry Soetoro wannabe heading the union is conducting himself in the same manner as his idol. It will be to both of their demises.

  6. In the new CBA ,please include re-alignment, and have the AFC North trade the Bengals to AFC South in return for Colts. Thanks.

  7. These guys are sounding more and more like the Reps and Dems in Congress. Both sides are more concerned with screwing each other over than they are concerned about the people (fans) who allow them to keep their jobs via funding. SHUT THE HELL UP AND GET A REASONABLE COMPROMISE DONE. BTW, reasonable compromise does not mean “get everything you can” jackasses

  8. The strike is not going to threaten the season. People can talk big about strikes or lockouts before it actually happens, but when its about to happen or when its happening and people are seeing the difference in their income/bank accounts…then they start talking. I highly doubt that a deal will be reached before the lockout, but it will not go on to long. Both sides have too much to lose. The sport is the most successful in the United States…this isn’t like the NHL where most sports fans could care less if they ever hold their season.

  9. ROFL that you thought everything was coming together over an 18-game season. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t it the responsibility of the NFLPA to represent the players? Since an 18-game season is a serious point of contention right now–and Goodell’s antics aren’t helping–somehow I doubt that would be the olive branch leading to peace on earth.

    And realitypolice is right … it was naive to expect this deal to be done before the end of the season.

    The people who are really failing the fans and the sport are those who refuse to report on the legitimate concerns players have regarding an 18-game season, what it will mean for the game, and how the determination to push it through is already having an impact on how football is officiated.

  10. Folks, here is the easiest way to look at this, and I don’t care whether you agree with it or not. The Golden Rule must and does dictate most business conducted in this country. By that, I mean the rule which states: He who has the Gold makes the Rules. That is NOT the players, or ANY employees.

    If the players, as employees, want to make rules, then they have to pony up the capital and put it at risk into their own venture, i.e. a team. Since they can’t and won’t do that, they DO NOT get to dictate terms of employment. If they don’t like the terms being offered to them, they can go try to get a REAL job.

    Of course the players are willing to “lock in” the current agreement. The owners quickly figured out they gave up way too much money to the players in the current CBA, and that is why they are invoking their negotiated right to rescind that contract.

    I personally hope the union refuses to bend, gets locked out, and watches as the owners bring in replacement players who are willing to play this game for something less than the holdings in Fort Knox. Ticket prices and merchandise will come down, and everyone except the ungrateful and unrealistic players will be happy.

  11. @davisjosh20: I think you are wrong about which side will get fan support. I, and many others, think the owners have been somewhat reasonable…they take all the financial risks (the players are already making big money because of the injury risk but that old argument–championed by the union–is conveniently forgotten). Unions always want more and more until the syatem can no longer be sustained…and this is where we are right now, and the owners know it. The owners are not completely innocent in this but they have a more compelling argument. Unions never realize they have achieved the most they can until it is too late; they always think they can and should get more…and they are usually wrong.

  12. Face it people, there will be a lockout next season and if they do play, it will probabaly be between 8-10 games and will have to revamp the schedule. Play everyone in division once, 4 conferance games and 1 interconferance game, then playoffs would expand to so there would be 3 playoff games on sat and sunday for 2 weeks. There will be no scab players. Ticket prices will rise also.

  13. Both the NFL and the NFLPA are seriously mistaken if they think a majority of fans are going to chose a side. The concern of the most fans is will there be NFL football as we know it in 2011 and beyond. There are some fans that want to see the extended regular season and rookie wage scale issues resolved, but unless one has a hard core political agenda it pretty much ends there. The sooner both sides accept that realization the sooner an agreement can be reached.

  14. As much as it kills me to say this God-del has made me really not give a big flying crap if they don’t play next year. He is stock piling all this extra money with all his great fines, turned fans against him and his conies and now will try to blame the players for all this. I watch football from sun up to sundown on Sunday but with all the extra garbage going on this season ..I’ll save money on team jerseys, trips to games, and direct TV.. Thanks Commish.

  15. blah blah blah.

    The owners need to open up the books and show us all of these losses. If not then STFU.

    The players will just walk over to the UFL and get ’em a piece of that league.

    Can you imagine the bargaining power that the NFLPA would have if they approached the UFL?

    They could set new rules that were more favorable to both sides and blow the current NFL out of the water.

    $8B is $8B….nothing says the UFL can’t take a bunch of it.

    Open up the books owners and shut up the NFLPA. If you won’t , then go away

  16. D Smith has to go. His stance since day one has been that a lockout is inevitable, and he seems incredibly arrogant and poorly educated in both the art of tact and the nuances of business/negotiating. The fact that this man was even ever considered as a good candidate for Executive Director says a lot about those that put him there.

    That being said, the league’s position that they are ready anytime for a “lock-in” could mean a couple things. Either they truly want to get down to business and get this done, or they are extremely shrewd at manipulating the public opinion. D Smith has made it obvious he wants a lockout, so the league pushes this idea lately (the last month or so) that they are ready and willing to get it done, but the NFLPA is the party that is unwilling to talk. This way, the players look like the apathetic party, and the league is absolved of any wrongdoing before they make that final offer and call it a strike.

    Of course, I doubt the owners are bluffing, as it only makes business sense to get a deal done…now.

    The most telling aspect of this whole clusterfudge? The NFLPA has yet to call the league’s “bluff”.

  17. It’s the same old same old – labor vs management. The only difference is the lack of a necessary product or service. The world can go on without the NFL but as a long standing fan I would be greatly disappointed. But maybe I can find better things to do during “the season” than sit for hours watching up to five or six games a week.

    Maybe this is lesson to all fans who find this particular labor problem a real joke. Maybe we should be working to provide a peaceful solution to social, economical and political problems through real justice instead of watching TV. Shouldn’t we be dealing with real life issues instead of sucking down beers watching managed violence.

    Now is the time to get a life fans instead of supporting something that will eventually come to an end. Maybe the end will come sooner than you think.

    See you at the game.

  18. realitypolice says:

    “No negotiation this contentious ever gets resolved until the 11th hour. And the 11th hour in this case is not when the CBA expires, but critical league activities such as the draft approach.”


    You should remember at least this simple fact back from your days of practicing law. This deal will probably get done at the last possible moment just before it becomes likely there would be a lockout. I can easily see a situation where the draft does not occur until June, maybe even after the 4th of July. they could get past this with an extended mini-camp that would flow right into a shortened (We can only hope!) pre-season schedule of three games. One home, one away and one neutral sight to get fans juiced up about the season. (Can you imagine Bears and Packers at Wrigley Field, or Jets and Giants at Yankee Stadium?)

    The parameters of an eventual deal are obvious:

    1) 3 pre-season games
    2) 18 game regular season
    3) 2 bye weeks
    4) an increased roster up by 5-7 players
    5) an “enhanced” injured reserve system (to allow injured players to return to the active roster after 4-6 games with 4-6 uses per team)
    6) a return to a 10 round draft to compensate for an increased roster
    7) a rookie salary cap
    8) in exchange for a reduction in maximum contract lengths for rookies down to maybe 4 years?
    9) a 1% decrease in the overall money given to players (the owners need to get this as a way of thinking they have “won”)
    10) an increase in league contributions (this is where the 1% would go) into a fund for injured nd retired players

  19. 90% of players would have just handed me my Big Mac in the drive through if it wasn’t for the NFL but yet they demand all the rewards but no risk along with the $500k + minimum wage… are you kidding me.
    Hey boss/owner… I demand you show me you income statement & last 12 months bank statements & last 2 years bus & pers tax return becouse I deserve more than $500k – $21mil per year + full pension after 5 years, + health benifits, + endorsements, + kings treatment, + + + +

    If there is a stopage of the players checks the majority will crumble in months screaming at their union rep to show me the money!!

  20. C’mon. Did you really think they would settle this thing? There is NO regard for fans here, there never was, and there never will be. This is a $$$ issue…billionaires vs. millionaires. The fans always draw the short straw and they always will. This thing won’t be resolved until the goose that laid the golden egg is killed and we start over and that ain’t gonna happen before there’s a strike/lockout! To believe otherwise is irresponsible.

  21. Cue The Doors, This is the End. In 10 years we’ll be saying, remember when the NFL was so popular. The fall from grace happened to MLB, NBA… WWE, Boxing, etc.

    What goes up, comes down. This league does not have values (though imagines that it does). This league is too money driven.

    What goes up, comes down.

  22. Silly Florio, you are missing the obvious.

    Whatever the final deal, will ticket, concession, merchandise, parking fees, etc. go down? Nope, both sides are maneuvering to relieve the fans of as much money as they believe possible without reducing ticket sales so much that total income falls.

    The paying fans have the power but we move like lemmings over the cliff….

  23. Look at what a strike (or two) did to baseball. Wouldn’t it be ironic if both sides lost money because of their greed? The Karma Police is watching……………………….

  24. @FinFan68 …

    Nice speech. But the players aren’t asking for more. The owners are ask them to take an 18-percent paycut coupled with a 12.5-percent increase in regular season games and the loss of their health coverage. And as WingT points out, the owners don’t want to provide any substantive proof that revenues are down.

  25. I don’t know how many folks here remember the NHL lockout a couple of years ago. Maybe you don’t care.

    But I will say this, hockey hasn’t been the same since in my eyes. I think it really did hit home that it’s really just a business. Billionaires warring with multi millionaires. Guess who would win a standoff? You got it, the owners.

    Don’t surprised if we head down the same route, although you are lucky enough to have senators and governors step in to pressure all sides for a deal.

    If there are scab players, I really hope the fans in those cities do not buy into what is being fed to them. People don’t show up, it shall have a huge effect, as it will be noticed.

  26. Its no big deal. Nobody thought there’d be a work stoppage in the late 80s, and no one really thought there would be “replacement” players. This has to happen ever 20 years or so…get the bad blood out and remind them why the game is important. Baseball will have the chance to rebound, but NFL’s Golden Goose couldnt last forever.

  27. You know things are bad when you pine for a past loser. Yesterdau I saw DeMaurice Smith on ESPN and it made me think, “Gene Upshaw wasn’t so bad”.

    Yes he was. Upshaw had no compassion for vets, only saw the Players Union as personal property; Smith is an idiot who is named “DeMaurice”.

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