No NFL season in 2011? It’s a distant and far-fetched thought that now seems to be an impending reality. When I first heard the news about the proposed NFL lockout for next season, my mind erroneously began to think about why the NFL players’ union wanted to go on strike relative to the upcoming season. With such a wonderful season and Super Bowl last year and the league off to a great start this year with very competitive games, the idea just seem to be too idiosyncratic. Then, I begin to think, “Wait, this is not a strike; this is a lockout.” Just like any other business model, the lockout means that the owners of the organizations are actually “locking” the employees out of work, which is the diametric opposite of a strike. Why would the NFL owners want to engage in such antics? And, if the lockout does occur, will the NFL be able to recover? I would like to explore each of these three questions.
First, why would the NFL owners want to engage in a lockout? Objective documentation indicates that the NFL and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) have not been able to reach a consensus on the collective bargaining agreement that expires in March 2011. Moreover, the owners reportedly would want players to take an 18 percent pay cut — the $340,000 per-player-average figure to generate additional revenue and a safety net and to purportedly sustain the league. Some commentators would state this is a relatively small pay cut for most multi-millionaire players in the league. To a certain degree, I would agree with this assertion.
But, why would players have to accept an 18 percent pay cut, when the NFL will make over $5 billion from its network television deals even if no games are played in 2011? Additionally, the owners have not mentioned that they will take a pay cut. Taking this into consideration, it would lead one to contemplate that there is an unspoken reason why these respective owners are preparing for a lockout. Beneath the veneer of the dialogue, I truly believe that prideful posturing is the underlying culprit. How beautiful would it be for NFL owners to let their players, which are primarily African-American, know who really is in charge?
According to Brian Frederick, “Since 1990, 28 of the 32 NFL teams have either opened a new stadium, done major renovations to an existing stadium, or are currently in the planning and negotiation stages for a new stadium.” With NFL average game attendance being slightly lower this year and in 2009 compared to previous year, it would appear that the NFL owners would honestly blame the construction of these opulent stadiums. Instead, the owners solely place negative culpability on the players whom they believe are overpaid. Certainly, it is safe to state that many NFL players and owners are overpaid. But, a win-win model is needed to sustain the league over the years- not one side still acquiring more profit and revenue.
The NFL owners should really think about the collateral damage that will occur as a result of the lockout. In a weak economy that is still suffering, the loss of a myriad of jobs (e.g., parking attendants, security, concession stand workers, maintenance workers, etc.) due to the lockout is unacceptable. The proposed lockout would obviously leave many fans that look forward to the games to lift their spirits and to enjoy time with their families will certainly be disgruntled. And, morale among NFL players will certainly be low, as it would be with employees in any workplace where the owners display such negative behavior.
Certainly, I believe that the NFL will recover and will be fine for a number of years, even if the lockout does occur in 2011. But, similar to Wall Street, it would be relatively tragic to see lives affected by pride and greed.