League, union facing potentially dramatic fan backlash


A little while ago, I saw the horrifying images of a debris-filled Tsunami swallowing pristine farm land in Japan.  And as news of more and more lives lost emerges, the message to the men gathering at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in D.C. became obvious.

Guys, it’s time to gain some perspective.  There are far, far bigger problems in the world than figuring out how to carve up a $9 billion pie.

Failure to work this out, especially against the backdrop of an enormous humanity crisis in Japan, could trigger a dramatic fan backlash.  And as the two parties jockey for ways to place blame on each other, the truth is that everyone will lose if reason and common sense and goodwill don’t prevail.

Prevail they should.  It’s time for Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith to earn their millions and rise above the noise and behave as the stewards of the game that they are.

Or at least that they’re supposed to be.

If they can’t, then maybe they simply aren’t the right men for the jobs they hold.

78 responses to “League, union facing potentially dramatic fan backlash

  1. Goodell could go down as one of the worst NFL commissioners ever.

    He’s already pussified the game. Every single move he makes is purely about maximizing the profits of the NFL…regardless of how it affects the sport, or the fans.

    I understand that the NFL is a business, and you have to be concerned with the bottom-line…but it’s not like they’re not already making money hand-over-fist. The amount of greed that they are showing is mind-boggling.

  2. A lot of times 2 things happen on the same day. I don’t think people remain bitter against a small event on the same day as a tragic event unless it’s a huge national event like 9/11 or 12/7.

  3. With each passing day of updates it becomes more clear that this is less about finding a fair compromise and more about 2 groups with huge egos and huge wallets trying to “win” the negotiation.

    People will always come back to football, because it’s a great sport. But if the folks fighting this fight don’t think there will be lost revenues and consequences if there is a protracted legal battle, they are wrong.

    Nobody wants to pay good money to something they don’t respect.

  4. In the words of the great Chris Farley in Tommy Boy – it’s go time! Get this deal worked out and let’s move on – or out!

  5. Looks like both sides (Pash in milder language, Smith in more snarly language) are more interested in a pissing contest now. Gentlemen, one thing I think most of us fans can agree on is that none of us care who has more testosterone between your two groups. Nor do we care to watch a contest during which ALL you are trying to do is to determine that.

  6. I used to think Goodell was the right guy for the job until he started making all of these completely unneccessary changes. He claims to be looking out for “only the best interests of the fans”, but in reality, he’s only looking to line the already huge pockets of the NFL with more money, and at the major expense of the fans he claims to be looking out for. Might as well just call him a politician and be done with it.

  7. I remember the baseball strike, and the football strike also.
    It took years for me to get back into the game once I lost interest.

    A lot of people will feel that way if this isn’t made right.

  8. My anger, particularly towards the owners and Goodell, is already there. I won’t be in NYC to watch the draft, but I hope that everyone who is there voices their disdain for this dumpster fire as vociferously as possible.

  9. First of all “farm land in Japanese” don’t you mean in Japan…secondly i’ve been fed up with this crap I love football and football season however…these childish negotiations are putting a bad taste in my mouth to the point that i’m already looking for other options even if they do play this year without a lockout. The entire sports world is cutting of it’s nose to spite it’s face.

  10. I think your last line is the most correct. I really don’t think either one of them are worth their weight in salt.

  11. At this point in time, I say screw them both.
    The longer this drags on, the less I care.

    Besides, considering the lousy economy, I’m sure the fans wouldn’t mind keeping an extra $9 billion in their pockets.

  12. I get the whole “perspective” thing but whether it should apply is irrelevant. It’s a business so take the emotion out of it. Current events make it more likely they will seek another extension rather than go nuclear. But long term it’ll have no impact.

  13. It’s a nice thought, but we’ll forget about Japan by next week because some celebrity will do something stupid and the news cycle will move on. There won’t be a backlash unless games are missed.

  14. I love the NFL and my fall weekends and draft weekend are things I really look forward too. But i dont understand this idea that fans are angry. Who are they angry with and why? Essentially the NFL is a free passtime. Only if you choose to go to games or buy the merchandise does it cost any of anything. We should be more appreciative of the NFL and much less demanding.
    This gravitates to the idea of much of today’s society in which so many think the world owes them something, simply because they were born. Please people, if you fall into this catagory of being angry at the NFL for not giving you what you didnt pay for, get over yourself and use the time to give back to society by volunteering. Learn to appreciate what is out there, instead of being angry about what you don’t have.

  15. My thoughts exactly: Billionaires & Millionaires arguing while people are washed away, slaughterer in Libya and we are paying close to $4/ gal for gas.
    They need to get into the fans world!

  16. What’s coming out of this – and it may be reality or perception (but does that matter since a lot of this is going to tilt in the court of public opinion?) – is that we have Bud Selig going up against Sonny Corleone.

    The empty suit commissioner with no power / imagination vs the player rep who just wants to talk tough.


  17. The fact that there are 20 people in the room and not 2 tells me they are not the right men for the job.

  18. Tell ya what – cancel the season. Cancel it. See what happens.

    It took a new building (Citizens Bank Park) to get me back watching baseball after their strike. I was gone for years.

    I haven’t watched an NBA game since Bennett Salvatore handed the title to Miami. I’ve never come back.

    I haven’t watched a NHL game since they took it off TV. It’s lost all relevance.

    I haven’t watched a boxing match since it went to pay-per-view. Couldn’t tell you anything about it anymore.

    Do it. Do it like these sports did – force me to live without your sport for 5 minutes.

    I’ll learn how to live without it.

    I’ll be gone for years, if not forever.

  19. Make them do the negotiations in Japan or Libya. Maybe their perspective will change.

    I enjoy the sport just as much as the net fan. But in the grand scheme of things, the NFL is near the bottom of what is really important in life.

  20. Wow.

    Best thing I think I’ve ever seen you write, Mike.

    Hope these people are intelligent enough to agree with this.

  21. The problem is, the owners are offering the players a percentage of revenues. But they won’t show the players exactly what the revenues are. So the players don’t trust the owners.

    The answer to the problem is for the owners to offer the players a flat amount of money. 5 billion. Or more or less. But a flat rate would take all the accounting gimmicks out of the picture.

  22. Unfortunately I do not think the disaster in Japan will make much difference when it comes to getting a deal done between these 2 sides. At the end of the day, it call comes down to money that both sides care about most. And while its nice to think that fans will turn their back on the NFL if there is a lockout, we all know that all of us will be sitting in front of our tv’s on sunday afternoon whenever play resume. This isnt like baseball, the sport is just too popular for fans to turn their back on it, no matter how ridiculous and greedy both sides are acting.

  23. My prayers go out to the people of Japan, Hawaii, and any other affected region of Mother Nature’s wrath.

    But let’s get real here. This earthquake/tsunami will have no impact on the negotiations whatsoever. Will there be fan backlash if something good doesn’t happen today? Yup. Should there be fan backlash? Absolutely. But let’s chill out a little with this sensationalism.

  24. bluefan204 — Same thing can be said about the union. Do you honestly think D. Smith and his cronies aren’t out to get every nickel they can? That’s what unions do.

  25. I think the idea that most fans will spend more time and money on the NFL than they will on helping the people in Japan is sadder than the players and owners fighting over the money that THEY generate. For the owners and players, it is their life. For us, it is still just a game.

    The fans are the ones who need to spend less time worrying about sports. If we cared less, these people wouldn’t be fighting about $9 billion.

  26. Goodell isn’t the problem.

    DeMaurice Smith is.

    Last night, as he was speaking after the negotiations, he actually began a sentence with the words, “The American people expect…”

    No one does that unless they’re running for political office. He’s playing politician– not union leader. It’s time for him to step aside and bring in someone who has the interests of the game at heart, along with the interests of the players, to fashion a deal.

    Several weeks ago, he exhorted his players to be ready “for war”. That’s what he WANTS. WAR. In order to stay in the news.

  27. The last time I looked, which side “wins” this dispute is not going to be determined by popular vote – any more than whether or not there will be an 18-game schedule will be so determined (and I’m glad about that second point!).

    Besides, any “backlash” can be dealt with by giving the fans an inducement to come back – and the one that stands out like a proverbial sore thumb in this case is the abolition of blackouts on home games that don’t sell out.

  28. One year from now when this resolved, the players and owners are going to look back with embarrassment with the litigation battle they are about to embark on. Look at how childish it got last night – it will only get worse.

    Please let cooler heads prevail, find people within your groups that want to make a deal have them work together and get this done.

    Getting into a public “he said, she said” dirty laundry fight will benefit no one.

  29. After Judge Doty ruled on the “lock-out insurance” of the owners, the “negotiations” ended up on an even playing field. Since that time I can only say that De Smith appears to be someone who is unmoveable. While there are owners who I like as well as owners who I dislike, I think De Smith, thus far, is coming across as a huge obstacle to labor peace.

    Somehow, I just don’t think that John Steinbeck had a vision of NFL players in mind when he wrote “The Grapes Of Wrath”.

  30. Both parties simply are not concerned about how we, the fans feel. They think there is NOTHING they can do that will stop us from returning with open arms and open wallets ! I have a longer memory than many persons. I will CLOSE my wallet !! I think there will be backlash. I stopped supporting the NHL & MLB after their last fiasco and have not returned.

  31. Memo to Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith:

    If there IS a lockout or a work stoppage, EVERYONE loses. The league, the teams, and the players ALL lose money they will never recover, and most importantly, the FANS lose the game we love.

    The fans are the Golden Goose, fella’s. Piss off the fans with this ridiculous BS and you’ve killed the Golden Goose that you are all fighting over. No matter who “wins” these negotiations, both side LOSE. Just ask Major League Baseball or the NHL how their work stoppages went for them last time….. it takes YEARS to get those fans back, if EVER!!!!!!

    Fans don’t want to hear this name calling, this Twitter slamming, none of these morons arguing over how to split $9 Billion.

    We just want our football.

    Put aside the egos and get down to a fair deal for both sides and get Goodell, Smith, Pash, Kessler and all the rest of these morons off of our sports pages.

    Will one person with common sense slap both these sides in the head and get them to agree to a fair deal BEFORE it’s too late??????

  32. Neither side gives two hoots and yippee about the fans. All they want is fans’ money. The owners want the players to play more games for less money. The players want the freedom to work for another employer like every other American. I cry all night for the injustices that each side has to put up with as they count their money.

    Well, on Friday the fans get started. Let’s hope that fans kick them both where it hurts: in their wallets.

  33. the labor negotiations are an embarrassment. both these sides are so ridiculously greedy and I support the players on this issue. There’s a 0% chance of there being pro football next year because obviously the egos far surpass common sense. I can’t wait when there is no football and no basketball next year that will be great for the country…. not.

  34. I quit watching MLB in 94. Have not watched a single game since. Don’t miss it. It there is a missed season or even part of one in the NFL, I will quit watching for the rest on my life. The NFL needs the fans, not the other way around. It is about competition for the entertainment dollar. Fortunately for me, there are a lot of things in my life that I enjoy. Yes, I love football. Yet, I can live without it.

  35. The players are NOT the “stewards” of the game.

    That role falls to the owners. Some take it seriously (the Rooneys, Maras, etc) while some are nothing more than quick buck artists out for themselves. And we all know who they are. And it is that second category of owner that has caused this situation.

  36. If this becomes a full blown litigation matter, both Goodell and Smith need to resign for abject failure to perform their jobs at a basic level.

    They are not there to win a fight against each other. They are stewards of the game. They are there to make sure that football IS played, not to make sure it’s NOT played in order to squeeze every penny out of the other side.

    If an extension or deal doesn’t happen today, they are failures, and they are losers and they deserve every ounce of scorn from fans that they are sure to get.

  37. Go ahead. Shut it down, shut it down for a year, while you whiney little spoiled babies fight over how to split an amount of money that the majority of the fans can only dream of. We don’t NEED you. YOU NEED US. It took me 10 years to give a crap about baseball after their last strike. Bring it on. I’m sure I can find more productive ways to spend my Sunday afternoons.

  38. “Somehow, I just don’t think that John Steinbeck had a vision of NFL players in mind when he wrote “The Grapes Of Wrath”.”

    Really? Read “In Dubious Battle” and you’ll see what Tom Joad would have been if there had been a sequel.

  39. I find it itersesting that there is always some take on how the fans will react. God-del all year has mentioned how concerned his office is with the fans . We all know this is a business, the owners want to make money, which they should and the players want to make as much as they can, which they should. With all the money coming in from tv contracts and who knows what other vinue they receive money from, what percentage actually comes from fan base? I have a hard time believing that any of the talks has FANS mentioned. Would be nice to know what the fans part in money to the NFL , directly is.

  40. I WAS a huge Hockey Fan… until the lockout. Since the work stoppage a few years ago I haven’t watched a single game.

    I don’t think the NFL (league and NFLPA) really understand how their current actions may well distroy the fans interest in the NFL.

    What do you think is going to happen when all of the Cities/States whose tax payers have helped pay for those football stadiums… and the fans interst goes away, and the tax payers vote to stop paying for taxes in support of the NFL?


  41. if training camp are missed or the season is in any way impacted by this non-sense , i’m taking a year off from nfl football ! whats the point in watching a season that is less than it should be !

  42. While im no fan of Goodel its obvious to me Smith is the bigger problem. Watch all of their Interviews etc and make your own mind up. Smith comes off much worse in all of this imo.

  43. This is a very thoughtful, well done piece that is very appropriate in light of the events of the day.

    Unfortunately, it’s wishful thinking on two levels.

    First, the idea that the earthquake will cause the two sides to gain some sort of perspective is just not realistic. There have been plenty of opportunities for this to happen, from Katrina to Ike, to Haiti, etc. etc. If it hasn’t happened by now, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    Secondly, the idea of a fan revolt is quaint, but again not really defensible in reality. As I have said before, the NFL has never passed up an opportunity to kick fans in the teeth, and it has never, ever resulted in a fan mutiny and it won’t now.

    Why we would revolt over a lockout when we haven’t over:


    -Spiraling ticket prices

    -$200 jerseys


    -NFL lawsuits against bars that have super bowl parties

    -The NFL putting regular season games on it’s own network which millions of people don’t receive

    -Interminably long games due the stuffing of more and more TV timeouts into telecasts

    Maybe it’s the fan who needs to gain perspective. After all, on a day when horrible human tragedy has befallen us, we are still on here worrying about whether we will get to watch a bunch of spoiled athletes play a game that generates billions for spoiled owners.

  44. I got a kick out of one of the owners saying the other day that you needed to clear the room and let the businessmen do the negotiating. Seems to me the biggest businesman is nowhere to be found. Where is Paul Allen? Without a doubt the smartest owner. Maybe he realizes this is a lost cause. You don’t have the type of money Paul Allen has by wasting your time.

  45. Goodell does need to step up, otherwise he will go down as one of the worse NFL commissioners ever!

  46. @kingjoe1 the nfl is hardly a free past time once they started putting games on the nfl network which until recently wasn’t available on cable providers and mine charges an extra fee for it. Not to mention the season ticket holders that miss out on a game because the nfl wants to make more money by having games overseas. Nfl europe proved that american football will not survive there so I do think the fans have a right to be demanding of owners and players fighting over the billions the FANS provided

  47. Guys, it’s time to gain some perspective. There are far, far bigger problems in the world than figuring out how to carve up a $9 billion pie.

    Actually, there is no issue more important for the league right now than to hammer out a new CBA that both the union and the owners can live with. Regardless whether you side with management or the union on this one, it is no different than any other dispute involving organized labour. This issue could easily end up in a lockout or strike depending on how negotiations pan out. Seriously… It’s not like these guys are going to put this issue to bed and then decide how to hammer out an agreement that will end fanatical terrorism and bring lasting peace to the Middle East. Get some perspective.

  48. Bluepike, you’re right. Steinbeck didn’t have NFL players in mind when he penned “The Grapes of Wrath.” But perhaps you’ll agree that some of the people on both sides of this little dispute are showing signs of some of the character development in “Torilla Flats.”

  49. I agree with the poster who said ” if this goes to court then both Goodell and Smith should resign as they have both failed in their jobs. I do believe that if you need the courts to settle this then the owners and the players require new leaders.

  50. Moochzilla says: “Tell ya what – cancel the season. Cancel it. See what happens.
    It took a new building (Citizens Bank Park) to get me back watching baseball after their strike. I was gone for years.
    I haven’t watched an NBA game since Bennett Salvatore handed the title to Miami. I’ve never come back.
    I haven’t watched a NHL game since they took it off TV. It’s lost all relevance.
    I haven’t watched a boxing match since it went to pay-per-view. Couldn’t tell you anything about it anymore.
    Do it. Do it like these sports did – force me to live without your sport for 5 minutes.
    I’ll learn how to live without it.
    I’ll be gone for years, if not forever.”

    I have the same attitude toward these greedy players and owners. Unfortunately, most fans don’t have this same attitude. The fans are always the victims in these types of disputes, but they keep coming back, filling stadiums and buying merchandise.

    Players hold out and the fan is the victim because the team is not as good without that particular player. The blackmail, ugh…. I mean, blackout rule is enacted if stadiums are not sold out and the fan is the victim.

    The salaries of the players are so high that ticket prices, and concession prices, and merchandise prices are ridiculously high. The fan is the victim.

    So, these greedy players and owners will cancel a season… who cares? The fans will be back as soon as the lockout is over.

  51. As a Packer fan, I’m glad we don’t have a greedy, money first owner.

    I hope these idiots realize the longer this drags on the more fans they not only lose, but fail to attract new fans.

    There are many fans who meet the criteria for an addicted person. With all the time wasted surfing rumor sites, playing fantasy football, watching the game, attending games, buying merchandise, fighting with spouses, etc. A case can easily be made that football addiction is very similar to drug/food/sex addictions.

    The NFL and the owners are exploiting this b/c they know they have us hooked. These meetings are nothing more than to determine who should bend over the furthest after the fans get it.

  52. usmutts – I agree with you %100 about “Tortilla Flats”.

    moochzilla – “In Dubious Battle” has a “party” (Communist we presume?) organizing a workers strike – something I’m not trying to interject into my earlier post.

    I was only trying to compare the plight of migrant farm workers during the “dust bowl” to the NFL players as a way of shedding the light of a different perspective.

  53. Give me a break. Just because there’s a tragedy somewhere on the earth doesn’t mean business grinds to a halt everywhere else. When 7 women were killed in the Ivory Coast protests, I didn’t hear you calling for the end of negotiations. There’s a war going on in Libya, should I stop coming to work because there’s more important things than my paycheck? Please. What a stupid argument.

  54. The owners want 18% back off the top, but they seem blind to the fact that if they don’t get a deal done and have a full season, they’re going to lose MORE than 18% in revenues. Hell, losing just 3 games of the season is over 18% of the season, not to mention the fan backlash. Ask the NHL how long it took for them to get back to their previous levels of revenue after their stoppage. I’d argue to say it took 3-4 years. Are they really willing to find out how many people, already on the edge of the cliff over the new rules, behavior of players, and whatever else, just give up on the NFL?

  55. Hey, I’m realistic – I’m not going to boycott.

    But when I was 16 I would have laughed if you’d have said one day I’d go 5 years without watching an MLB or NBA game. Yet I have. Because those leagues ticked me off.

    Am I gonna watch the games on TV? Sure, so the NFL is still getting 90 cents on the dollar from me, as that is the most profitable thing they have.

    But am I gonna buy that new Eagles jersey for myself? Or that NYG Christmas tree ornament for my wife? Or that NFL stocking for my kid?

    Probably not. And merchandising sales are the difference between a good profit season and a great profit season.

    Oh, and I will NEVER pay for NFL Network. So stop looking at that as a potential source of revenue.

  56. I don’t care you gets what piece of the pie. But if there is no football upcoming, I will simply cancel my 2 season tickets, cancel Sunday Ticket and cease the practice of buying hats and t shirts. Once the season resumes, I will still follow my home team, but I will do it on free tv. The NFL will not get another buck off me.

  57. To the NFL and the NFLPA:

    Gentlemen, there are a lot of great books I have not read. There are plenty of motion pictures that I have not viewed that are available. There’s music to listen too, museums to go to, and walks to take.

    What I am trying to say to you is that there is plenty of things I can do to occupy my time if there is a work stoppage in the NFL. Just like my relationship with MLB, I may discover I don’t really miss football all that much.

    Good luck trying to win me back.



  58. Whatever. There’s a sucker born every day, otherwise teams would never be able to sell PSL’s. The same cities that face blackouts will face blackouts and those that don’t will just have the season ticket waiting list get smaller. In the end, fan costs will go up to cover the difference the owners feel they need to be profitable.

  59. What if they held a draft and no one came? If this fiasco drags on until the draft, I would love to see fans decide to boycott the draft, both in person and on television. The moment Goodell and Smith saw that not one fan showed up to attend the draft, they might finally realize that they need to work together to keep the sport great for the benefit of players, owners and fans. Football does not exist for the sole benefit of owners or players, but for the benefit (and as a result of the contributions) of all three groups.

  60. Instead of watching football I will…

    …learn Chinese. Probably will increase my earning potential by 20% in the short-term, and much more in the long-term.

  61. @ Kingjoe:

    Do you not understand that the NFL is a $0 industry without fans?
    They get money from sponsors because sponsors are advertising to thousands of fans.
    They get big dollars from networks & service providers because fans produce the ratings & purchase the service.
    They make money off concessions, ticket sales, PSLs, apparel sales, fantasy football, need I go further?
    They are threatening to take away OUR sport over OUR money. These folks would be working a 2nd job like a lot of us if we don’t buy what they are selling. They need us a lot more than we need them. So yes, we are upset. Yes, we do have a sense of entitlement, cause we are entitled to receive the product we pay for.

    If you don’t understand that, son, you’re a lost mind!

  62. This is a disagreement between two groups of people, both of which have a huge since of entitlement due to their athletic abilities or ability to make large sums of money (except for a few owners who inherited their wealth).

    The aim of both sides is to get even deeper into the wallets of NFL fans because they feel they deserve all they can get.

  63. Jerry Richardson owner of the Carolina Panthers (and a former player) is reputed to have said to a player rep (Peyton Manning?) “YOU (players) are the cattle. WE (owners) are the ranchers.”

    Jer, let me remind you of something – what you said may be true, but WE FANS are the ones who buy the beef.

    Please grow up – both sides – and get this straightened out.

  64. moochzilla said:
    “Tell ya what – cancel the season. Cancel it. See what happens…..

    Do it. Do it like these sports did – force me to live without your sport for 5 minutes.

    I’ll learn how to live without it.

    I’ll be gone for years, if not forever.”

    I agree 100%. I was a season ticket holder until the baseball strike…haven’t spent one cent on baseball since. I’ve only been to maybe 5 games post strike, and those tickets, parking, beer, etc were paid for by the friends who were paying me back for taking them when I had the tix. I won’t even watch an entire game on TV now. I will watch for short periods but not a whole game.

    Lost interest in hockey when they lost a season…haven’t watched since.

    Never cared about basketball, so no concern there.

    Paid for a couple of overpriced boxing matches that were over in minutes and haven’t seen another one live since.

    Football has always been my #1 sport. If they cause me not to be able to enjoy the games, I have no doubt that I won’t be back. I’ll just concentrate on college football and my deer hunting, which I have neglected many times in favor of football.

    To the NFL…please don’t kill my passion!

  65. Hey listen folks it is football and the NFL owes you nothing. Get over yourselves. No one cares if you threaten not to come back as a fan. If you think you really like football and don’t watch in the future because they may or may not have a lockout, than really you werent a football fan to begin with.

    People didnt stop watching TV, when the writers went on strike, people kept flying after the air traffic controllers went on strike(than got fired, thank you Dutch) people still go to hospitals after nurses strike etc. To puff out your chest and state you wont come back, just shows how much you over-value yourself.

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