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NFL Lockout 2011: Labor Meeting Canceled Today

Today, the owners and the NFLPA representatives were scheduled to meet to continue talks in an effort to avoid a labor lockout on March 4th, the day the current NFL collective bargaining agreement ends. That meeting has since been canceled, as have the meetings scheduled for next week.

From PFT:

The reason for the cancellation isn’t clear.  It’s possible that the two sides decided that the time is better spent digesting information exchanged on Wednesday.  It’s also possible that they’ve decided that, for now, further face time would be counterproductive.

Either way, it’s safe to say the race is on to find out what happened.

When you hear folks like Daniel Kaplan of the SportsBusiness Journal talk about the labor situation, it's one where you have a very wide gulf between the owners and the players. This is unlike previous labor fights, where owners are saying 'our league is losing money.'

The NFL is making money. BIG money. It's just that the owners want to pocket more of that BIG money for themselves. And thus, what this is about isn't the 'quality of the game,' or that the business model of the NFL is 'broken.'

The owners are, quite simply, being greedy, old men.

With this post, you are going to see me make an exception to the general rule of 'NO POLITICS!' with Stampede Blue by me linking to an article written on a politically-themed website. The reason I'm doing so is because the author of this article PERFECTLY articulates the problem with this NFL labor situation.

I politely and humbly ask you to look past the partisan talk on the site, and focus instead on just this article and how the author breaks down the NFL labor issue. The article is by Laura Clawson at the website Daily Kos [emphasis mine]:

The owners claim that they need the players to take pay cuts if the NFL is to remain viable and profitable. But they won't release their books. Trust us, they're saying to players and fans alike. We're in financial trouble. But:

According to Kurt Badenhausen of Forbes SportsMoney, "The NFL has never been more profitable by our count with the average team earning $33 million in 2009 in  operating profit (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and  amortization) thanks to huge incomes for teams like the Cowboys, Patriots and Redskins."

The most recent Forbes NFL franchise valuations show 19 of 32 clubs being worth at least $1 billion. In Major League  Baseball, where talk of a labor stoppage at the end of 2011 is nearly  non-existent, only the Yankees have a valuation of over $1 billion, as ranked by Forbes.

According to Time:

Public indicators of the game's overall health are overwhelmingly positive. The sport is setting ratings records every week, revenues are strong, and ESPN is reportedly close to agreeing to increase the fee it pays the NFL to telecast Monday Night Football to around $2 billion annually, an increase of at least 65%.

Under the circumstances, "trust us, we need the money" isn't really going to fly. Especially when you consider that player salaries are tied to revenue, have not increased as a share of revenue in recent years (in fact, the player share of revenue has dropped slightly since 2006), and

You would have to turn back the clock to the early 1980’s, in the days before free agency, to find a season in which the players’ share of football revenue was as low as that being proposed by the NFL owners.

But this is about more than money, at least for the players. It's about their lives -- about whether they'll stay healthy enough to continue playing; about whether they'll retire from the NFL physically able to lead full, productive lives; about how long they will live.

In the interests of disclosure, let me say that SB Nation (the parent company that owns Stampede Blue) was founded by Daily Kos czar Markos Moulitsas. I personally have never had a political argument with Markos, but I did give him a ton of sh*t after the Colts beat the Bears in Super Bowl 41. Markos is a Bears fan, and he talked a ton of sh*t prior to the game. So, sticking it to him felt REALLY good.

Where you personally fall on the political spectrum is your own business, and, quite frankly, none of us care who you voted for in the last election. However, we at Stampede Blue (and me in particular) are often more inclined to side with the players and their union on labor issues than with owners. Owners are multi-gazillionaires. They will stay multi-gazillionaires even if the NFL loses money over the next 50 years. I never sympathize with the uber-rich, and in the case of NFL owners, they are often clueless, meddling, and utterly disinterested in what fans think or say about 'their' team.

When I hear people dismiss the labor situation as millionaires v. billionaires, it's important to point out not everyone makes Peyton Manning money. Some of our favorite players are guys like Blair White, Jacob Tamme, Tyjuan Hagler, Justin Tryon, etc. These guys make a minimum yearly salary at around $300,000. Now, that's not chump change, but it is not a substantial income. 

Consider that the average NFL career is three years. For these guys, all their lives have been primed for them to play in the NFL. Over three years, at a total of $900,000 (after taxes, $790,000 I'm assuming) is not a lot to live on, especially if you have a family. It's enough to maybe get you a house and put a little away, but it isn't much.

Then, if you have medical bills as a result of concussions, bad joints because of ligament damage, or severe pain in general because that broken leg bone just didn't heal right, that $900K goes pretty quickly. Once a player leaves a team, they are on their own to get coverage for their injuries.

From our P.O.V., we agree that many NFL players are paid more money than they deserve (cough*cough* Kelvin Hayden). But, most NFL players, the 'blue collar-types' we often root for the most, are the people these fat cat, greedy, clueless owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder want to squeeze because... what?

Because the profits are not HIGH enough?

Because the money they are making (which is in the billions) doesn't 'justify their investment' in the sport?

WTF is that?

From our perspective, the most useless element in this whole equation are the owners. Football does not exist without players and fans. As we have seen with the Green Bay Packers, a team can be quite successful when owned BY THE FANS.

So WTF do we need these owners for?

Why should we, or the players, care about what they think is 'acceptable profit.' Considering the economy we are in, the owners have a lot of nerve complaining about billion dollar profits.

But the NFL owners are willing to inflict that damage, too. They're relying on us to believe them when they say they need the players to take significant pay and benefits cuts; to be scared when they imply that without those cuts, football could be endangered. They're relying on us to remember only that some NFL players are millionaires and forget that most NFL players are not -- and that in any case, team owners are far, far wealthier than even the best-paid players. To remember that some NFL players have long careers and forget that most only play a very few seasons. To remember that watching additional games each season would be fun for us as football fans and forget that it could devastate the lives of players who are already risking a great deal. It's a brutal, cynical calculation they're making. Don't be fooled.

I ask you as well to not be fooled.

Thank you for reading.