I don't want to do this, but it has to be done. With the NFL offseason upon us, and the uncertain labor situation between the players and owners threatening the 2011 season, we have to spend some time focused on the collective bargaining agreement. If you didn't already know, the current agreement expires this March and a new one is needed for the 2011 season to proceed as planned.
Basically, the situation boils down to this. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is trying to ram through an 18-game regular season schedule, whether the players or fans want it or not. The owners also want the players to take a pay cut, essentially giving back $7 billion dollars over the next seven years. The player want to see the owner's books and, of course, they want to be additionally compensated if they are going to be forced to play more football.
DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Association, was recently on the Michael Kay Shown on ESPN Radio in New York to discuss the current state of negotiations from the player's perspective. Sports Radio Interviews has the full transcript, and we have a little bit of the interview for you.
What would you say is the biggest sticking point?
"Well the owners have asked the players to give them back a billion dollars a year for the next seven years. So for you, for the fans out there, they've [Owners] have asked the players to write them what amounts to basically a $7 billion check. The one thing that I think everybody out there would agree is before you wrote a $7 billion dollar check you'd ask yourself a couple of questions. One, why the $7 billion dollars? Two, what's the economic justification for players giving owners a $7 billion dollar payback over the next 7 years in the absence of anything that would suggest that football or the National Football League is on an economic decline, that viewers are on a decline. That there is anything that would seriously jeopardize the NFL's business model ... The sticking point right now is we haven't seen any economic justification for a billion dollar per year swing in the relationship between the people who own the teams and the players who only play for about 3-4 years."
Obviously, Goodell and the owners were not on the Kay Show to speak to this. It is, however, a valid argument. How do you give the players less and ask for more work when you already run the most successful sport in the world?
We wil have much, much more on this as it unfolds over the next several weeks. Oddsmakers, incidentally, are putting the chances of a lockout by the owners at 70 percent. NFL.com is reporting that the two sides are meeting today and Thursday.