NFL labor negotiations appear headed for trouble

In case to you missed the memo, the NFL is all about the money.

It is the thing that obsesses commissioner Roger Goodell and most of the owners.

And the main goal of the owners is to increase revenue and limit as much as possible how much they have to share with the players.

Which is why they locked out the players for four months in 2011 to get a bigger share of the revenue pie than they had in the previous CBA negotiated by Paul Tagliabue with the late Gene Upshaw before he retired.

When Goodell replaced Tagliabue, he was hired to take a hard-line stance against the players and get a better deal.

Which he did. The owners were willing to extend the lockout into the regular season if they didn’t get what they wanted.

Facing the loss of paychecks, the players caved and gave the owners about 52 percent of the designated gross revenues in a 10-year deal that expires after the 2020 season.

Instead of giving the players a straight percentage across the board, they gave them different percentages of the three main sources of revenue.

They got 55 percent of the TV revenue, 50 percent of the business ventures and 40 percent of local revenue, including ticket sales.

The deal was just the latest example of the owners prevailing in labor fights with the players.

They virtually took the option of striking away from them by breaking the 1987 strike with replacement players.

The problem for the NFL players is that they aren’t as united as the baseball players mainly because they have much shorter careers.

Although the deal hasn’t been all bad for the players because the increase in revenues has increased the salary cap from $120 million in 2011 to $188.2 million in 2019, they would have gotten more under the parameters of the previous deal.

Still, many of the players are frustrated, feeling they got a bad deal last time and are upset about the lack of guaranteed contracts and Goodell’s power to discipline them.

But can they stay united and be willing to miss paychecks if they are locked out again?

The New York Times reported recently that there have already been two bargaining sessions and they haven’t featured the rancor that talks marred the talks in the past. And that Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith have a “decent relationship.”

The owners want to paint a positive portrait about the talks because they want to keep as much of the status quo as possible.

While the Times reported the owners expect the league to agree to a modest increase in the players’ share of the league revenue, they expect few major changes. One owner was quoted as saying the players won’t get a penny more than 50 percent of the designated revenue.

But that probably isn’t what the players are thinking, and the Sports Business Journal reported that Smith wrote the agents to tell the players to start saving their money to be ready to go a year without paychecks.

It seems hard to believe the players would sacrifice an entire season, though, and it seems likely the owners will once again wait them out even if they have to lose a few weeks of games.

But the two points of view shows how far apart the two sides are. While the owners are talking about modest increase and not a penny more than 50 percent, the players are talking about giving up a year.

The players have to be laser-focused on what their objectives are and narrow them down to a set of specific goals rather than take a scattershot approach.

What we know now is that even if there wasn’t much rancor in the first two rounds of talks, it can’t be avoided when they get down to the nitty-gritty details.

This is looking like a rocky ride.

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