What I want as a fan as it pertains to the NFL lockout and what I think will happen are obviously two different things. I want the lockout to end yesterday, so that free agency will open and the NFL draft won’t seem like a major inconvenience to all parties involved.
But what I think is happening right now is pretty obvious: the owners are stalling.
Some believe that both sides want to get a deal done now. I don’t. I think the players wanted to get a deal done when the discussions first began, while I think the owners wanted a lockout all along and were ready to use the negotiated TV contracts to fund said lockout. But when Judge David Doty ruled that the owners couldn’t use that money, the leverage swung in the players’ favor and things changed dramatically. The owners then wanted to get a deal done, so they put together what they thought was a reasonable offer before the CBA deadline expired. But at that point, the players wanted to decertify because they knew that if things went to court, Judge Doty would get them the best deal possible.
But then they went to court and Judge Susan Nelson was chosen to oversee their case – not Judge Doty. The scales have now tipped back in the owners’ favor, even if Judge Nelson lifts the lockout in these upcoming weeks.
That’s because the owners will likely appeal Judge Nelson’s ruling, forcing her to keep the NFL gates locked until that process has been completed (which could take awhile). In the meantime, the owners will do everything in their power to stall until August or September, when they know they can cause some real damage.
Despite the urging of the NFLPA to save, many players blow through their money like a kid in an arcade. And even though the NFLPA set up funding for players of up to $60,000, that’s not a lot of money when you consider the minimum base salary in the NFL is $295,000. (Or when you consider the millions of guaranteed money that some players have gotten over the years.) If players haven’t been saving up to this point, they’re going to be in trouble the longer this dispute lasts.
And the owners know this. What happens when the players aren’t receiving weekly game checks? Will they panic? Will they turn on each other? Will they start to crack? There have already been 10 players arrested since the lockout began, which was just over five weeks ago. How bad will things get in five months?
There was a report recently that the players and NFL were taking this second round of mediation “seriously,” although it wasn’t serious enough for them to meet over last weekend. The league is in great danger, yet both sides decided to halt talks instead of pressing on because they wanted a weekend off. So when you read a report like this one from CBSSportsline.com that says the players and owners are viewing mediation as a “ruse,” you tend to believe it.
The owners are fully aware that the longer this battle lasts, the more leverage they create for themselves. As a fan I wish that weren’t the case but the reality is that this is hardball and the owners will do everything they can to swing the power in their favor.
Anthony was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago but currently resides in St. Louis where he is a full-time NFL columnist for The Scores Report.com. He also covers some baseball and college football, but his passion is the NFL and he really enjoys discussing the draft. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyStalter.