Ten things to know right now about the labor situation


With the labor deal between the league and the players’ union expiring at the moment the clock strikes midnight on March 4, we’ve been getting more and more questions about what will happen if the bell tolls without a new agreement.

So we’ve decided to provide a basic overview of what will, or could, occur once the current agreement expires, along with other issues.

We’ll do it via a blend of our 10-pack approach and Rosenthal’s “umpteen things to know” routine about the injury report.

1.  A lockout likely would begin long before September.

Many NFL fans believe that the offseason would continue, business as usual, until the start of the 2011 regular season, at which time a lockout would be imposed.

That’s probably not how it would work.

When a labor agreement expires, either side may decide to slam on the brakes when it comes to working.  The workers may strike, and management may lock the workers out of the building.

Though there’s some flexibility regarding the timing for the imposition of a lockout (we previously believed, erroneously, that a lockout had to be implemented from the get-go), it’s widely believed that the lockout would launch at the outset of the new league year, blocking free agents from being signed to big-money contracts — and, perhaps more importantly, cutting off a collusion claim that would be made if free agents aren’t signed to big-money contracts.

Thus, regardless of whether any regular-season games are lost to a lockout, a lockout likely would start more than six months before a regular-season game ever would be missed.

2.  The union has the ability to try to block a lockout.

For months, the union has been warning the media and the fans against a lockout.  The rhetoric from NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith regarding a lockout is looking more and more accurate, even if to some extent it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

During the 2010 regular season, however, the NFLPA embarked on a series of meetings with players from every team.  Systematically, the union obtained advance approval to decertify in the face of a lockout.

Derided by the NFL as a decision to “go out of business,” decertification would prevent the league from locking out the players by converting the NFLPA from a legally-recognized union into a collection of individual, non-union workers.  Some think that the NFL would challenge the maneuver as a sham, but such an approach would entail P.R. risks, since the NFL would be using the legal process in order to force a lockout on the players.

Still, the union inexplicably continues to warn against a lockout while ignoring the fact that the NFLPA has spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to line up the ability to block a lockout via decertification.  If the union fails to decertify, it will prove that the effort was a ruse aimed at making the NFL think that decertification would occur.

If decertfication happens, the league then would be compelled to craft across-the-board rules regarding free agency, the draft, and player salaries.  The union would likely respond by filing an antitrust lawsuit, arguing that the league consists of 32 separate businesses that cannot work together to place common limits on its workers.  (This is why the American Needle case was viewed as being critical to the labor situation, even though the facts center on marketing deals.  If the league had secured a ruling from the Supreme Court that it is one business, an antitrust claim based on labor rules may have been doomed from the start.)

A league source with knowledge of the labor dynamics recently told us that the NFL could respond to decertification by simply applying in 2011 the rules that applied in 2010:  no salary cap, no salary floor, six years to unrestricted free agency, no rookie wage scale (Andrew Luck just peed a little), one franchise tag per team, continuation of drug and steroids policies.  The league would adopt this approach in the hopes that it would survive an antitrust challenge; though the NFL lost the American Needle case as it relates to whether the league is one business, the Supreme Court’s written ruling strongly suggests that a pro sports league may have a valid, legal reason to apply across-the-board labor rules.

With no salary cap and no salary floor, teams would be permitted to spend as little or as much on players as they choose — a dynamic that didn’t hurt franchises like the Chiefs, Buccaneers, or Jaguars in 2010, each of whom were far more successful than big-spending teams like the Cowboys and Redskins.

3.  The owners have an alternative to a lockout.

If a new agreement isn’t reached by March 4, the owners aren’t required to lock out the players.  Negotiations may continue and, at some point, the league can declare an impasse in the talks — and implement its last, best offer as the new set of rules, pending a formal agreement.

The union then would have to decide whether to work under those rules, or whether to strike.  With the union repeatedly insisting that it won’t strike, some nifty P.R. moves would be required in the event the union decides to walk out in the face of a decision by the league to welcome the players to continue to work, under the terms of the league’s final offer.

Some think that the league prefers a lockout because the players at some point would agree to the terms of that last offer for several years beyond 2011, presumably after they miss one or more game checks.  By implementing the last, best offer, however, the league would be getting what it wants, at least in the short term.

Likewise, the league would be able to claim the moral high ground in the event of a work stoppage.  No longer would the owners be locking out the players; if football goes away for all or part of the 2011 season, the players would be the ones to make that happen.

Still, the players could strike at any time, like at the outset of the postseason or two days before the Super Bowl.

4.  In a lockout, free agency would be tabled.

Sunday’s news that Raiders cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha will become an unrestricted free agent in 2011 sparked considerable Twitter activity from fans who’d like to see their favorite teams pursue Asomugha.  The widespread “let’s go get him” chatter suggested a fundamental misunderstanding regarding free agency in the event of a lockout.

If there’s a lockout, free agency won’t begin until a new agreement is reached between the league and the union.

In fact, there’s a chance that 2011 will include no free agency at all.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated explained in his most recent MMQB that it’s possible a lockout lingering into the late preseason or what would otherwise be the regular season will result in a decision to freeze all potential free agents in place for one more season with their current teams, with 2011 base salaries based on their 2010 pay plus a premium.  Such an approach could be necessitated by the chaos that would erupt if, for example, the players cry uncle after losing two weeks of pay and the league slapping together plans for a regular season on the fly.  Opening the free-agency flood gates at that point would create chaos as 32 franchises attempt to get ready to play a real game within a week or two after a new labor deal finally is struck.

5.  The draft would proceed, but with no player trades.

The only good news in the event of a lockout that wipes out the offseason is that the draft will still happen.  As Charley Casserly of CBS pointed out last month, only the draft would happen.  The flurry of signings of undrafted players immediately after the draft wouldn’t.  Those players would remain unaffiliated until the lockout ends.

Though trades of current and future draft picks would be permitted on draft day, no players could be traded during the draft.

This will turn the offseason flow upside down.  Typically, teams attempt via nearly two months of free agency to fill certain holes on the roster.  Likewise, free-agency departures create other voids to fill.  The draft allows teams to focus on adding players in specific areas of need.  For 2011, the first crack at addressing those needs will come in late April with the draft, forcing teams to make decisions without knowing when or if they’ll be able to retain their free agents, or to sign new ones.

Though most teams seem to be content to wait to attempt to sign their own free agents after the labor situation is settled, the smart move may be to make the decisions now about the free agents that a team would like to keep, and to sign them to new contracts before March 4.  Any team that follows that approach, however, would likely draw dirty looks at league meetings, since new contracts surely would include signing bonuses — which would make it easier for those players to hunker down once a lockout extends into the regular season.

6.  Say farewell to the offseason, training camp, and the preseason.

With the owners wanting the players to agree to shrink the size of the slice of the financial pie they receive in the hopes of growing the pie moving forward and the players lacking any specific information on which a decision to reduce their slice of the pie could be justified, a lockout won’t end until the players blink.  They quite possibly won’t blink until they start losing game checks.

As a result, they won’t be blinking in March or April or June or July or August.  Which means that there would be no offseason workouts, no OTAs, no minicamps, no training camp, and no preseason.

Which means that we’ll have to be making a lot more stuff up than usual.

7.  Pressure points for the owners.

With the players likely to break once they start missing paychecks, the union has been trying to give the owners a reason to try to work out a new deal before September.

Specifically, the players are trying to create pressure points for the league.  The current attack on the TV contracts, which will continue to pay the owners in the event of a lockout, create pressure while the claim is pending — and a lot more pressure if the claim succeeds, blocking the billions of dollars that will help men like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pay the mortgage on his new stadium.

Another potential pressure point comes from a collusion claim based on the lack of league-wide interest in restricted free agents last year.  The union had been preparing to initiate a legal action alleging collusion, and the two sides agreed to delay the deadline for doing so pending further negotiations.  If negotiations don’t result in a new deal before the end of February, the collusion claim likely will be filed.

Other pressure points won’t come from the players directly.  With uncertainty hovering over the 2011 season, fans in markets without season-ticket waiting lists will be inclined to wait on renewing their seats.  Also, sponsors will be unwilling to make financial commitments (unless the lockout will be “brought to you by” a company that makes locks, or maybe lox).  Eventually, the networks will get antsy, due to both the prospect that they won’t be able to sell advance advertising space for the 2011 football season and the reality that the rights fees will have to be paid to televise football games that won’t occur.

In the end, more pressure applied to the owners will make them potentially less likely to push a lockout into September, at which time the players would bow to the league’s demands after missing multiple game checks.

8.  Supplemental revenue sharing.

When the current labor deal was negotiated in 2006, the owners squabbled over the issue of supplemental revenue sharing.  Basically, the NFL decided long ago to share core revenues like box-office receipts and TV money.  Over time, many teams have discovered  and exploited new forms of revenue that aren’t shared, like luxury suites.

Five years ago, a debate raged over the impact that a player-compensation model based on total football revenues would have on the teams that generate relatively low amounts of total football revenue.  Bengals owner Mike Brown explained that the new system could eat into his profit margin by raising his overall labor costs, since the salary cap and salary floor would be determined by the revenues generated not only by the Bengals but by high earners like the Cowboys, Patriots, and Eagles.

Former NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw insisted that the last labor deal include an agreement among the owners regarding supplemental revenue sharing, even though such an accord arguably was irrelevant to the union.  In the end, the owners did the deal, in large part because the teams found themselves squeezed by restrictive rules of the last year with a salary cap, which was set to launch if a new labor deal hadn’t been reached.

Today, the owners want to squeeze back, and they’ve done a great job of keeping under wraps the lingering disagreements regarding supplemental revenue sharing.  But multiple league sources have told us that a major potential fight among the owners regarding revenue sharing lurks just beneath the surface.

So how do the owners avoid that fight among themselves?  Ravens cornerback Dominique Foxworth nailed the owners’ strategy:  “Let’s take it from them.”  Mike Brown doesn’t care if Jerry Jones is making too much money; Brown wants only to be making what he deems to be enough for himself.  So by giving the players a smaller slice of the pie, Brown’s team will receive enough cash each year to offset the effect of high-revenue teams on labor costs.

With the union searching for viable pressure points aimed at getting a new deal done, the best strategy would be to expose the notion that the owners are simply hoping to give the players less money in order to permanently solve the problem of supplemental revenue sharing.

9.  De Smith’s dilemma, and possible agenda.

Less than two years ago, DeMaurice Smith became the executive director of the NFL Players Association.  Many league insiders believe that, unlike his predecessor, Gene Upshaw, Smith doesn’t plan to remain in the job for more than 20 years.  The perception is that Smith has bigger ambitions — political ambitions.

Folks with political ambitions realize that those ambitions can be better realized by publicity.  And a lockout imposed by the owners would thrust Smith into the national spotlight, especially if it were to linger into September.  As a result, there are more than a few folks on the ownership side of the equation who genuinely believe that Smith will refuse to do a deal until he has had a chance to maximize his own personal “Q” rating.

The more practical reality, apart from whatever Smith’s ambitions may be, is that he can’t do a deal in the short term without appearing soft to his constituents.  Even if no regular-season games are missed, the thinking is that Smith must provoke a fight that lingers past the expiration of the current contract in order to create the impression that the deal he finally proposes to the players is a good one.

Of course, Smith wouldn’t be in this position if he hadn’t spent the last year or so sounding the lockout alarm, which in turn created the impression that the league’s best offer won’t be made before the current labor deal expires — and which means that the union will have to engage in legal, political, and/or P.R. battles in order to get it.

All of which will increase Smith’s profile.

10.  The absence of gravitas.

Regardless of the issues and agendas at play, a concern has emerged that the ranks of NFL ownership are being overrun by men whose personal financial interests supersede the best interests of the game.  Combined with the possibility that union leadership is being influenced, directly or indirectly, by concerns unrelated to the long-term health and well-being of the game, damage to the sport seems to be inevitable.

But there’s still hope.  Somewhere with the ranks of ownership, someone needs to stand up and remind the Jerry Joneses that the game is much bigger than one team’s profits.  Someone who currently is an owner needs to emphasize to all owners that there can be no league without the players, and that the players must be fairly compensated for their efforts and the risks they take.

Some hope that Steelers chairman Dan Rooney, currently the U.S. ambassador to Ireland, will become more involved in the process.  (That said, there’s also a sense that the Rooneys have lost some of the influence over other owners that they previously enjoyed.)  There’s also a vague notion/hope that Chiefs owner Clark Hunt could rise up and follow in the league-first leadership that his late father, Lamar, provided to the sport for decades.

Either way, there currently seems to be too many people worried about “me” — and not enough of a focus on the concept of “we”.  The league and its players are partners.  For the past 18 months or longer, they have been at times behaving like enemies.  Though some may believe that the current popularity of the game would allow it to overcome an offseason lockout and an in-season work stoppage, the stakes are too high to justify the testing of that theory.

62 responses to “Ten things to know right now about the labor situation

  1. watching billionaires take the attitude of “I’m taking my ball and going home” always makes me feel good. Gotta run now, can’t be a minute late for my job that pays me $40K a year.

  2. #2

    If the Union ‘decertifies’ how exactly would the former heads of the Union (which at that point does not exist) have any standing to bring a lawsuit? Wouldn’t it be a player(s) filing a lawsuit over ‘Restraint of trade’ sections of the anti-monopoly laws?

    I think the Owners will elect the ‘impose the LBO and let the players decide to come to work or not’ option. The players response will be to decertify and sue. The owners will have to settle quickly because they know they will ultimately lose the lawsuit.

  3. Well Done article Mike! Well explained as only an Attorney could do. Just wanted give you a slap on the back and not knives like others do here on PFT.com everyday . Carry on!!

  4. One thing that the players and owners should know is that those of us who are fans have absolultely NO interest in their financial problems (save taking care of retired, injured, etc., former players). The amount of $$$$$ is just too big for the average Joe & Josephine to elicit any sympathy for any of them. What does rankle fans is that many people like them will lose paychecks .. those who rely in the industry for their weekly take home pay. I’m sure baseball and basketball will enjoy the additional TV ratings and $$ that would have been spent at NFL venues, but now will flow to them. Oh, yes! We will find someone else to occupy our sports jones.

  5. Nice article and you hit all the salient points…might as well throw a dart on this one, nobody knows….

  6. Didnt even mention if the owners have the ability to flip the bird to players and look elsewhere for employees.

  7. p4ever says:
    Jan 12, 2011 8:56 AM
    I wish there would be a lockout so I can be cured from NFL football just like I was cured from the MLB and NBA


    I pretty much feel the same way. I’m wondering if this superbowl will be the last pro football game I’ll ever watch.


  8. One question. Where did #9 originate?

    What is the basis of the thought that Smith may have political ambitions? Is it the author’s opinion? Does it come from a source, if so what type of source?

  9. Players will decertify. Keep the way the things are now works i.e. 16 games. 18 games is way too many. It would make too many games irrelevant like it is in baseball and basketball.

  10. Another question…. if the union decertifies can the individual teams then hire the individual players to whatever terms which the player will agree?

    If the players do not sign does that present a similar “collusion” issue for the “union?”

  11. I don’t get how the leagues don’t learn, look the NFL will probably be locked out then the NBA, the NHL has already lost a season and MLB lost a World Series. I just wanna believe that the NFL isn’t this stupid but the handwriting is on the wall. Look at ratings this year and these guys can’t figure this out, there will be such long term damage if a lockout happens.

  12. Mike, that was an excellent article and I really enjoyed reading it. I suspect (and you probably already realize) PFT is being used by some players and league personnel for an unbiased view of the labor situation. Players cannot get a true picture of the situation from their camp’s website, and the same is true for the league folks. Spin is rampant, and there are very few places for these people to get reliable information and reasoned, well-thought-out commentary. Keep up the good work, and maybe, just maybe PFT may have a hand in breaking the labor log jam. Great work, and as always, I enjoy visiting your website on a daily basis.

  13. If they would have listened to old crazy Mike Brown, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Give him his props, him and the Bills owner were the only ones to see this coming.

  14. Obviously players stop getting paid when games are supposed to be on, but in fact, are not. What about coaches, coordinators, GM’s, team presidents, etc?

    One plus to this is that Sprint offers the ability to watch college games live on your handset and no longer offers the ability to do that with NFL games(since the NFL jumped to Verizon to fatten their pocket books). So I’ll actually be able to watch more football if I switch to college games.

    Keep daring me, NFL. Keep daring me. We’re already in rough waters, don’t capsize the boat. There are millions more just like me. I hear MMA is quite exciting and growing faster than anybody could have ever anticipated. Let MMA take over, and the NFL would be waiting a while to get anywhere near the status it has achieved.

  15. People need to drop the notion that the League and Players are a partnership. Anybody who works for a living understands that they do not get to establish the terms of their employment. Their boss – the business owner – sets the terms. The NFL team owners have every right to set the terms of how much money they want to pay people who play on their teams. The Players need to quit acting like babies, and they need to take what they can get. They all make plenty of money. Welcome to the real world, where most of us have already experienced this phenomenon commonly referred to as getting shafted.

  16. It’s unfortunate that the league and players can’t find some sort of win-win situation. As others have expressed here, it will hurt the sport. With no offseason free agency news to look forward to, no training camp to attend (I go every year), and likely no fantasy football draft in the summer, I’ll probably just do other things during that time. Any potential 2011 season will be a lot less fun. If they don’t play at all, then there’s always college football and the UFL.

    I find myself more irritated with owners. I can’t feel sympathy for someone like Jerry Jones. Why should the fans suffer because he decided to build a crazy expensive stadium? Jerry Jones isn’t risking his health every week. Yeah, the players sign up for this, but I feel like the owners are just upset about the last CBA and are more punitive in the approach.

  17. Actually nice article. Don’t find the legal issues too interesting usually but labor relations is.

    Their agreement isn’t too bad when you compare salaries in the CFL or UFL. Not bad for work most players love to do as well.

    What seems the most key is if an agreement is not reached that the league still impose a salary cap on teams to keep the field level. This wouldn’t be collusion because they aren’t all fixing their prices or individual salary rates, just their total. The league could also impose FA rules.

    W no agreement the players could decertify the union. They may lose some rights but the system would function more or less the same (they could work where they want or for the best deal available). Not too unlike all other types of works where salaries are pretty similar company to company.

  18. the only understandable explanation I’ve seen to date, thanks PFT…

    Reality here is that Uber Rich Morally Corrupt Owners don’t want to share more of their easily made money with Uber Rich Morally Corrupt Players….

    I love football, but if this degrades into a political, headline, and money grubbing fest in todays hard times, I have no problem taking a few years off from buying merchandise and sunday tickets and game passes and spending that time remembering who was a headline grabbing jerk when them come up on a ballot…..

  19. “the best strategy would be to expose the notion that the owners are simply hoping to give the players less money in order to permanently solve the problem of supplemental revenue sharing.”

    There is nothing to expose. The owners are explicitly stating that some owners are losing money and that THIS requires significant changes to the existing arrangement. The owners have already put this front and center.

    In my opinion, there is absolutely no reason why the owners of the most successful sports business in the Unites States shouldn’t be raking money in hand over fist. Even by the most optomistic estimates, less than 10% of the NFL’s revenue finds its way into the owners hands (some say under 2%), while 45% to 60% goes to the players.

    Something needs to change.

  20. toe4:

    Did you seriously ask that question? Smith is a political operative and was on Obama’s transistion team. He went out of his way to to stick his nose in the Limbaugh affair with the Rams. He is a radical liberal democrat and has political ambitions. Do some reasearch……However if he can keep the season to 16 games I will be his biggest fan – so there!

  21. It was said that Al Davis (yes, Al) was the one owner that help convinced the owners to approve the 2006 CBA Agreement. I don’t know if it was a way to help out his ex player Gene Upshaw or not, but say what you will about Al, owners respect him for what he has done, more so than Mike Brown.

  22. I have an actual question:

    If the owners lock out players who are currently under contract and refuse to pay them, could the individual players file a grievance and/or lawsuit against the team for breach of contract? For instance, could a player with no guaranteed money at least become a free agent if their current team were found to have breached their end of the contract, and could a player with guaranteed money left in his contract gain both free agency and the remaining guaranteed money (like when they are cut outright)? If the player shows up and is willing and able to fulfill his part of the contract he has signed, but the owner refuses to allow him to do so and then refuses to pay him, it would seem like the player would have a great case…unless all of the players’ contracts have specific language that deals with this possibility. Just wondering really, as I’ve never heard anyone talk about the contractual issues during a lock out.

  23. This is by far the most informative article I have read on this site…well done. As a fan, I just want a viable deal worked out; one that can survive for the forseeable future. Yes, the owners are “greedy” but IMHO the players are far worse. If you look at what players are compensated (without looking at any overall percentages) no respectable argument can be made that they are underpaid. They do have an injury risk but that risk is known prior to the player ever signing a contract and stepping onto a field…and it is also a major reason why the minimum salary, for a player that may not even see a snap, is over $300,000. The players want to be compensated as individul partners in the businesss venture but assume no financial risk whatsoever. They are paid quite well but this is about them wanting more. Unions have done a lot for low-level workers throughout this country’s history but this union and others like it cannot be placed in that category. Every union that has ever existed, once reasonable compensation has been gained, always overreaches and causes the ultimate destruction of the industry they depend on. This is no different. The saturation point has arrived and the union needs to accept the fair compensation or risk no compensation from a behemoth they made defunct.

  24. @dccowboy:

    You don’t need to be a union to have standing to sue for antitrust violations. You just need to have been injured. Any of the individual players could sue. Most likely it would be a couple high profile free agents who weren’t able to get the big deal that they feel they otherwise would have. Maybe even the two restricted guys: Vincent Jackson and Logan Mankins.

  25. Thanks for the insights.

    Today’s NFL is certainly exciting, unpredictable, addictively fun to watch, and it’s achieved parity and doesn’t suffer through boring games the way it used to do. But that Competitiveness is the result of a lot of things that go on offseason to Build the teams’ personnel. This haggling over money disrupts all of that important behind the scenes preparation.

    I don’t see any evidence that fans want an 18 game season or that it fixes a problem or overcomes a deficiency. This is a greedy move by the Owners that foolishly threatens the Quality of the Product to sell more of it.

  26. Can’t the league block the union’s attempt at decertification, saying it’s merely a stunt and that the union has no intention on staying de-certified?

  27. Now on to more important things – WILL THERE BE A NEW MADDENS??

    Seriously tho, how come using scab players has not been discussed?

  28. p4ever says:
    Jan 12, 2011 8:56 AM
    I wish there would be a lockout so I can be cured from NFL football just like I was cured from the MLB and NBA

    acmepacker says:
    Jan 12, 2011 9:42 AM
    I pretty much feel the same way. I’m wondering if this superbowl will be the last pro football game I’ll ever watch.


    Add me to the list. I feel the exact same way. I never went back to the MLB after the strikes and steroid controversy which basically ruined the record books.

    I am an avid NHL fan, but I’ve always felt there labor disagreement was a different animal.

    The NFL, I don’t have sympathy for either side and I don’t like the concessions they are fighting over. For example: An 18-game season sucks; waters down the season and makes previous years incomparable.

    They don’t get their act together, they can take their $10,000 seat license agreements, $250.00 jerseys, $100.00 ticket prices, $30.00 parking prices, $8.00 beers, $6.00 hotdogs, and 20-minutes of commercials per hour, and shove it.

    I’m walking.

    If a lockout / stike occurs, I hope the rest of the fans show some backbone and punish the league for being so ‘untouchable’.

  29. Actually, there are a LOT of fans, myself included, that would love an 18 game schedule. More football > less football. What you’re seeing is more fans that oppose the 18 game schedule being vocal (Read: bitching) about the idea.

    That said, I believe the 18 game proposal by the owners is more a bargaining chip that will be used to get concessions from the union. They’ll use it to get concessions on a smaller percentage of the pie for the players, a rookie cap, or any number of other ideas.

    Or we could just get 18 games. Who knows.

  30. “I’ll never got back to the NFL after this crap!” — 1982.

    “The NFL has lost my business, forever!” – 1987.

    Funny but the two people that I knew that uttered that, were back at that their TV sets, ready to root for their team when both of those strikes were over and I see it happening again. Unlike the other three, the NFL has bounced back quickly and I don’t see it being any different this time, even if they lose a season. It may take two seasons, at most, but the fans will be back, especially in cities like Green Bay and Pittsburgh, where the realists will understand that once they give up their seat, they’ll be in the ground before they’ll ever be able to get another ticket (I guarantee you that there are fans in those cities that may not want a strike or lockout but who will swoop down and pick up any season tickets that come up for sale because of it and they won’t be thinking of themselves as hypocrites while they’re watching the games). You can talk big but you’ll be back.

  31. If a lockout occurs, the players will have no one to blame but themselves. Football is popular. Unions are unpopular. People are not going to feel sorry for any player who does not want to “suit up” for hundreds of thousands (and even millions) of dollars. Pro players don’t have forever to play either. Colleges are going to stay open, during any lockout, producing the next NFL stars.

  32. Can’t blame the players, they are not asking for a raise. How would you feel if you boss told you that I need you to do the same job but for less money. By the way we making the same money or more but we still need you to take a pay cut because we agreed to too much last time. By the way it’s the player’s that make the game not the owners. Next time I see a owner out there on the field taking hits and blocking I’ll be sure to give him some respect. What I see is 22 guys on the field that make a good living but pay the price with injuries and long term damage to their bodies. The owners are sitting in a luxury box that is climate controlled. Sorry I’ll have to cal BS on this one to the owners.

  33. Contract will be signed just in time for a couple of preseason games before the start of what will be an ugly first 4 games.

  34. Forgot to mention that there are other articles out there that speak to more of the financial side of things. The owners will not inform the players union to the total amount they get from all apects of their franchise. So in short. the owners are telling the players they have to take a cut in pay with out showing in proof that teams bottom lines are shrinking. The owners are saying it’s a recession so we’re taking in less money but they don’t want to prove it. In my opinion the owners are using something that is hurting real people to their advantage which is pretty distasteful if you ask me. I’ll get off my soap box now, I hope we don’t miss out on any games. I want to see what Garett is going to do with my beloved Cowboys.

  35. willatx says:
    Jan 12, 2011 3:49 PM
    Can’t blame the players, they are not asking for a raise. How would you feel if you boss told you that I need you to do the same job but for less money. By the way we making the same money or more but we still need you to take a pay cut because we agreed to too much last time…..Sorry I’ll have to cal BS on this one to the owners.
    Millions of people have been asked to do the same job for less money. You assume the owners are making the same or more money but their main argument is that the profit margin is declining. The players base their compensation demands on comparison to the owners…that’s just plain stupid. They want as large a percentage of the profit as they can get but they want to dictate the point where the numbers are considered “profit”, that’s why there is a disparity between the union’s numbers and the owners’ numbers. The players are employees, not business partners. The argument that the players make the league is not entirely accurate. Players do make the game what it is…but THESE players are just beneficiaries of the current circumstances. Every one of these players will eventually be replaced by the next guy and the fans will root for them just the same. Marino, Payton, Montana, White, etc. were all great but they are also all gone. The union can keep trying to posture themselves but they will ultimately open the door for the owners to hire new employees (players) who are willing to accept reasonable compensation.

  36. Nice article but… Most of us really do not want to hear all the he said, she said, and feel that the players as a whole already make to much money. That being said, the owners opened that box themselves by agreeing to the salaries, and I’m really not sure who is paying who to keep the real villains names out of the paper. I’m talking the agents. Agents have become just like D.C. lobbyists. Shady backdoor brokers trying to make a fortune off of someone else’s talents. Just look to the John Grudden fiasco in Oakland. The way I understood it was, his (Grudden’s) last season there his agent informs Davis that they want to negotiate a new contract, Davis say’s not till the end of the season. The deal in Tampa was all but done by that point, and when Davis counter offers, after the season with more money than they were asking in the first place, John was still walking because Tampa was buying, and his head had been filled with “you don’t want to work for Davis anyway.” All looked great the next year when both go to the super bowl, but 36 months later both teams suck because John won with Tony Dungy’s team and Shanahan couldn’t hold Johns team together. Just think how far John Grudden could have gone with the Raiders and no agent. My bottom line to fix this… Keep all current agreements in place, put in place a rookie salary cap (that will piss off the agents) that will keep money out of rookie’s hands who have not even played a single down in the NFL and free up millions to keep free agents at home, put in place a good benefits plan to take care of the players for the rest of their lives that they MUST buy into. And any and all new agreements must be for the good of the game. It is so simple it might be stupid.
    Much Love,

  37. @willatx-

    First, employees all over the country (And probably the world) take pay cuts while doing the same type of work. Sure, it sucks, but it beats the alternative.

    Second- I don’t see why the owners should have to open their books. You don’t ask the owner of the company you work for to open his books to you, do you? Of course not, that would be the fastest way to lose your job. Fact is it’s none of the players business how much the owners make. If the owners feel like they should be getting a bigger piece of the pie, so be it. The players aren’t forced to take it either. They also have options- Play for another team or find a different line of work entirely.

    Finally, I maintain it is not the players who are the “product,” but the team itself. The brand, if you will. The New York Jets are the product. The Dallas Cowboys are the product. The Chicago Bears are the product. The players are merely employees who, along with all the other employees of the organization, help make the product (The team) better.

    For example, if Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo or Jay Cutler get traded and start playing elsewhere, are fans going to stop supporting the Jets, Cowboys or Bears?

    Of course not, because most fans have been supporting the Jets, Cowboys or Bears long before Mark Sanchez, Tony Romo or Jay Cutler got there. And most fans will continue to support them long after those players are gone. It is the team itself, not the individual players, that are the product. The players are merely cogs in the machine helping to make the product they represent better. Their performance is definitely the reason we watch, but they are not the product themselves. They are simply a piece of the puzzle.

  38. The players don’t make the game???????? Dude there are all levles of football played from age 5 to the NFL, trust me the players make the game. Not one player but the collections of players. If you do some research you find that the Owners are not willing to put all their cards on the table and show the players where they are loosing money. In the real world a corporation shows it’s employees the bottom line to justify cuts period. Sure there are millions of people that would like to play the game, some of the had a chance to play when scabs filled the rosters and how bad was that. The owners sign the contract so if the don’t want to pay a player a give a mount it’s their choice not to, the player can sign with another team. I’m not sure what you do for a living but I would be pretty pissed if someone capped my salary for what ever work I did no matter where I worked. Uh where is the capitalism in that??????????

  39. 4 pre-season games


    18 regular season games


    up to 4 post-season games

    That’s as many as 26 games.

    That’s half a year

    That is TOO MUCH

  40. Open letter to the players and the owners:

    This is a 3 way deal.

    Owners – you pay the players big bucks and there are 2 reasons why – 1) you have lots of bucks to start with

    Players – You are all making big bucks now – which you have every right to – and those bucks are coming from 2 sources – 1) The owners, who have big bucks (and big egos)


    2) – US FANS. WE are the ones who tolerate the huge ticket prices, the outrageous parking fees, the overpriced food, and all the folderol because we love the game.

    Lesson to be learned? There is a point at which we say “enough is enough” and with all your silly posts and all the b.s. you insist on throwing in our faces you are pushing us in that direction.

    I for one have watched pro football for more than 50 years. I remember ‘The Greatest Game Ever Played’.

    The members of the team that won that game needed off-season jobs to make ends meet.

    Be VERY careful over the next few months with your little hissy-fit fight – and I am addressing BOTH of you.

  41. willatx says:
    Jan 12, 2011 6:25 PM
    The players don’t make the game???????? Dude there are all levles of football played from age 5 to the NFL, trust me the players make the game. Not one player but the collections of players.

    I didn’t say the “Players don’t make the game.” What I said is they are a cog in the big machine that is the whole team. Yes, we pay to go see the players, but in the example I gave, which you obviously missed, I suggested that if one player leaves your favorite team, you still support that team. This tells me that the players specifically are not the product. The team, the brand is.

    If you do some research you find that the Owners are not willing to put all their cards on the table and show the players where they are loosing money. In the real world a corporation shows it’s employees the bottom line to justify cuts period.

    No, they don’t. Your boss doesn’t come to you with his books wide open and tell you he needs to make cuts, and neither do most people’s bosses. There’s no reason why the players should expect any different from the owners.

    Let’s get real here for a moment. It’s not like the players are being forced to play football. They have options, and could choose to do any number of things. They chose football, which is great. Either play for the money they’re offering, find a team offering to pay more or find a new line of work. The owner doesn’t owe it to the players to account for every penny in and out, and the players are unreasonable in asking for it.

    Sure there are millions of people that would like to play the game, some of the had a chance to play when scabs filled the rosters and how bad was that. The owners sign the contract so if the don’t want to pay a player a give a mount it’s their choice not to, the player can sign with another team. I’m not sure what you do for a living but I would be pretty pissed if someone capped my salary for what ever work I did no matter where I worked. Uh where is the capitalism in that??????????

    Where’s the capitalism in that? You said it yourself- The player can sign with another team. Obviously there are some rules they have to follow, but at some point a player can sign for another team of their choosing for an amount they agree to.

    By the way, it’s not like the players are getting robbed. I mean, they do negotiate salaries and such. The team says, “We’ll pay you this much,” the player says, “No, I want this much.” Back and forth they go until they reach an agreement. If they don’t agree, the player sits out. If they do agree, they move on.

    Seriously, stop making it sound like the players are mere victims here. They really aren’t.

  42. 1historian says:
    Jan 12, 2011 7:13 PM
    4 pre-season games


    18 regular season games


    up to 4 post-season games

    That’s as many as 26 games.

    That’s half a year

    That is TOO MUCH
    If the 18 game season were to go into effect, they would cut out two pre-season games.

  43. Addendum to the open letter:

    The FANS are the reason the NFL is such an insanely profitable entity.

    The FANS are the ones who were there at the beginning and are still here.

    The FANS ARE the NFL.

    WE are the folks who make this thing go, so you would do well to remember that.

    How else to spend a Sunday afternoon in the fall?

    Read a book, walk the dog, write a book, take pictures, family time NOT centered around the game, take a drive in the country or in the city, visit your neighbors or invite them over, re-establish contact with someone you haven’t seen in years, haveadoobie and sit on the porch admiring the scenery,


  44. willatx,

    If it weren’t for the owners putting their money on the line to own a team and form a league the players would be playing pick-up games in the park on weekends. I agree that good players make a good league, there would be no league without money, those great players would never have focused on football if it weren’t for a league that is popular and financially successful enough to pay them, etc. I bet the US has some incredible soccer players, but no one is willing to pay them so as they get older they realize they’ll need to develop other skills if they want to make a living (same with women’s sports, and other non-financially viable sports).

  45. moth25, I think players would still play. We have some semi pro teams in Austin where guys play for the love of the game. The NFL is business, that I undersand and where you might not have games on TV if were not for the owners everything else would be there, not on as grand of a stage but the game would go on. I would say the NFL has provided a way to dedicate your life to the game but that goes for more than just players, it’s true for coaches, trainers front office jobs etc…..

    I did not miss your point, the players do make the game of football not one player, but all the players, It does not matter what team they player for they are still a player. The game of football is larger than one team. With out the players there is no game. With out the owners, the glitz and glam may not be there but I may be diffrent I actualy understand football and it more than just something to watch for me. Dallas is my team every since they had Danny White, but even when they are not playing I watch other teams. I follow highschool and college football as well. So maybe I’m a little diffrent from the norm.

    Also if you work in the private sector they do make their books public unless they are privately held, local and federal goverment make their budgets public as well. Unless you work for a small mom and pop buisness your companies profit margin can be found.

    It this situation the players are not asking for a raise, the owners want to them to get smaller piece of the pie. I’m with the players, why should the give up % of the revenue when the owners are not being honest about what they are marking by marketing their team and the players the play for them. I bet you along with most others can name way more players in the NFL than owners of NFL teams. Remember the USFL? The did not last, they had owners but not enough good players.

    This is all a moot point as the owners are the ones that are signing the contracts in the first place, they just want a rule so other owners who are willing to pay they players more can’t and that’s not right.

    I notice you did not address my analogy of asking your self it it’s fair for some one to place a salary cap on your proffesion as a whole?

  46. I root for #18 Peyton Manning.

    I would root for #16 Shane Falco.

    I’m good with Replacements.

  47. I love the NFL, but at the same time, this addiction of daily checking PFT and the various other sites, in addition to watching the games, costs me money and focus as a sole proprietor with a home office.

    I restrict myself to only football, and have managed to survive without following the other sports. If the NFL wants to stop workage, in many ways, I will be better off, and there is no guarantee I will come back.

  48. Well yeah, I didn’t address it because I thought it was a stupid analogy.

    With few exceptions, every single job out there has some kind of salary cap. When you apply for your job, you see “Salary range- $X – $X” That’s a salary cap. If you perform well, you can bump yourself into the next salary range, or even make yourself more employable to someone else (Free Agency). If you have a degree, you can go even higher, but you’re still capped out at what the position pays.

    Some jobs, like commission based sales or stock trading, don’t have a salary cap. Neither does owning the business. But the large majority of jobs out there do.

    As for books being public, only publicly traded companies make their books public, because they have to. Failure to do so would result in a de-listing of their company stock. That said, most jobs aren’t with publicly traded companies. Most jobs are with smaller and mid-sized businesses, who don’t open their books up to their employees.

  49. Sparta Chris;

    Good point, but if you cut 2 pre-season games you lose 2 games where the coaches can evaluate the on the edge players and 2 added real games increases the number of first line players who can get hurt. An interesting stat would be to look at the season starting rosters of each team – the 53 man squad. Then after 16 games how many of the players on those squads are on IR or have been out for a significant number of games? If they have to play 2 more regular season games I think that nunber would go up a lot more.

  50. Roger Goodell lacks gravitas. He’s a suit. Pete Rozelle is not walking in that door.

  51. Dear NFL,
    Let us know when you decide to play. Then we’ll decide if we care.
    The Fans

  52. Interesting that this business could easily survive wout a union just like any other. The union ensures that players have certain rights, benefits, admin etc w their employer not unlike any co w an HR dept.

    Each team could in effect take over what the union does for their players (like they do for other employees anyway).

    The key for the NFL is a cap only to balance the playing field and protect the small mkt teams. The NFL as a co could still regulate this but in a way the fans self regulate the right % split for players/owners.

    The fans pay for the product by watching TV (TV rights paid to teams, TV $ from commercials) or buying tickets/merchandise. For ex if say the cap is too low the talent/team will be lower and there will be less fan interest. This will hurt TV ratings/advertising and the $ paid to the teams for rights. Too high and the team can’t sustain itself. Cos seem to need a t least 5% profit not out of greed but to have the necessary cash for new investment and their growth.

    It’s not like the NFL is a monopoly where ridiculous profit can be made. The compete against everything else on TV and other media which is another self regulator. So in a sense the business has a cap on its revenue and cost.

  53. I bet you along with most others can name way more players in the NFL than owners of NFL teams. Remember the USFL? The did not last, they had owners but not enough good players.
    Two points…1) You would be correct if you just used raw numbers, however there are only 31 “owners” that could possibly be named. I would guess that most fans could name 5 based on headlines alone…Davis, Jones, Ross, Wilf, Johnson, Snyder, Kraft, Rooney, York, Adams, McNair and Glazier have all had major play in the headlines recently. That is almost 40% right there so unless you truly believe most fans could name around 650-700 players… 2) The USFL had several good/great coaches/players and many went on to have NFL hall of fame careers. Jim Kelley, Herschel Walker (not HOF), Reggie White, Steve Young are a few players. The USFL was actually a decent product but folded because the owners (Trump) tried to go head-to-head against the NFL. They won the lawsuit but lost the war. The league folded because of money (like the UFL is doing) not talent.

    I think the other poster’s point is that the teams are what most fans root for. Every roster is different every single year yet the fans remain. The stars always get replaced (OK, so do some teams nowadays) by new players. I personally will root for my team (even now, ugh)…it matters not, whose name is on the back of the jersey

  54. Actually when you think of the split they probably aren’t far off. Look at the costs for any other manpower only business like a service co (insurer,bank etc) and their revenue split is about ~60-70% wages, 20 % for overhead(utilities, admin, land taxes etc) and 10-20% gross profit.

    Pay 1/2 of that in tax and the teams keep 5-10%. So at 67%? it seems ok.

    It looks like the players are probably getting the better deal. Consider cases like Jamarcus Russel who walks away w $30M guaranteed for 3 years of part time work just isn’t right.

  55. My job actually has four meetings a year (1 per quarter) where they DO open their books to us and let us know if and where we need to make cuts (and we usually don’t have to make cuts, haven’t had to since before I started working there). It makes us more willing to work harder on certain areas because we KNOW where the help is needed.

  56. too many egotistical owners,jones,snyder,wilson,tidwell,wilf just to name a few. no more old school owners. thats why the packers are the greatest no owner no problem with money in a small town!! lombardi knew what he was doing! it’s the fans and pation that make the game!

  57. Here’s the 11th Thing You Need to Know Right Now About the Labor Situation:

    Anyone who uses a line like ” I don’t see why the owners should have to open their books. You don’t ask the owner of the company you work for to open his books to you, do you? ” doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

    “For many years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has required charities organized under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code to report their top executives’ salaries on Form 990 when filing tax returns. This information has been made available to the public as a kind of quid pro quo for the favorable tax treatment received by the organizations. The main purpose of reporting the salaries is to provide taxpayers the opportunity to hold charities accountable for abusing their tax-exempt status by overpaying their executives.

    Business leagues, defined by Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(6) as “associations of persons having some common business interest, the purpose of which is to promote such common interest and not to engage in a regular business of a kind ordinarily carried on for profit” also use Form 990. This classification includes professional football leagues like the National Football League (NFL) which earns its revenue from dues paid by its 32 member teams… Business leagues must now report and publicly disclose… key employees that make over $150,000.”


  58. moth25 says:


    The league was formed by a bunch of guys who reportedly didn’t even pay the $100 it took to gain entry and most of the teams were paid for by a lot less than you think. Only the most recent owners have paid a fair amount of change for their franchises while there are several that are still in the hands of their original owners or families that didn’t cost as much as you think and with the revenue that they get, there’s not as much risk as you think. You take more risk opening up a grocery store than the average NFL owner does when he buys a franchise.

  59. I’ve been a fan since I was a little boy sitting with my grandfather watching Sonny Jurgenson & the Redskins. I have spent considerable amount of money on game tickets,refreshments at the games and Redskins related items & clothes for my family & I. I have spent so time in front of the TV or laptop watching & reading about my team & the NFL that I’ve decided that if they strike orif their is a lock out it’s over! I will not spend one more dollar on the NFL. Heck, my skins suck but I’ve been a true fan good or bad & it’s been real bad to be a Redskin fan since 1992! I quit baseball when they went on strike & have not gone to one game, watched one game or bought anything related to baseball since the strike & I never will. I have a large family with a beautiful wife & seven wonderful kids for which I spend a small fortune everytime we go to the games. I go to almost every home game with them all in tow! Thankfully I’ve been blessed with an incredible job that pays substantially well in addition to many wise investments (I started with nothing but hard work & putting myself through college – blue collar family growing up). No season means no more of my money forever! I will quite them just like I quite the MLB. The players & owners all make way to much. I do agree that the owners do not need to give the players their accounts to review. I don’t have a contractor come to my house, review my financial accounts so they can dictate to me how much I need to pay them, so howcome the players think they can demand the same from the owners! Teams do not need to have Supplemental revenue sharing outside of TV revenue & box seats. The owners own the stadiums. If they can add funds through luxury boxes & other venues then that is a smart savvy owner. If you can’t, you need to sell the team to someone who can. If a city cannot support the team. then the owner has a right to move it just like any other business to a better location to improve the bottom line. The NFL is a business! If players don’t play, trust me, their will be other players who do want to play. I remember the Strike season. My skins won all three of those games with alternate players, including beating the Cowboys who actually had starters (some All-Pros) and beat them. I understand the players, but when some rookie comes into the league & makes more then established players with All-Pro pedigrees then something is seriously wrong! I don’t hire kids out of college & pay them more then my veteran employees who have displayed to me their knowledge & experience, why should these kids get any different situation! Enough of my complaining. Simply put, no season, no more fan!

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