After reading a column suggesting that Green Bay Packer fans should grudgingly support the owners in the ongoing NFL labor negotiations and legal battles, I wrote a rebuttal post that gained a lot more comments than I expected. Do the owners or the players have the best interest of the game at heart in these labor negotiations?
If this isn’t a topic you’ve ever considered, my guess is that you think the battle is all about money. It’s hard to disagree with that opinion while both sides are trying to maximize their revenues over the next couple years. They’re both focused on future revenues, but neither one is really looking back. Will their current positions hurt what’s made the NFL successful in the past?
Instead of settling this at the negotiating table, the NFL Players Association decertified and filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The league responded with its own lawsuit to keep the lockout of the unionized workers in place. Even the judge in the case is disappointed that this matter isn’t being settled. The owners claim the players want this battle in the courtroom instead of at the bargaining table, but the league is forgetting its own history here.
After the lawsuit filed by Reggie White against the NFL in 1993, which led to the series of labor agreements that the league had been operating under for the past two decades, the owners and players agreed to free agency and a salary cap. The cap was designed to be adjusted annually based on league revenues, with each side to receive approximately one-half, and it did so every year until 2010, when the NFL operated without a cap. This partnership of shared revenue growth has led a consistent schedule of games brought on by labor peace ever since.
But now the owners want to walk away from it and keep the salary cap at a set amount into the future. The owners knew the players wouldn’t accept this, and knew this would force them back into the courts. History should have taught them that the arrangement they want from the players can’t be found in a courtroom.
If the salary cap is one important fiscal leg the owners are willing to rock, another is revenue sharing between the owners. It’s hard to tell what will happen, because this isn’t a public battle like the one between the owners and the players, but there is no doubt that some owners want to end it. While a salary cap has kept the labor peace, revenue sharing has kept all NFL teams fiscally sound. Progressive revenue sharing, which began back in the 1960s, was something that helped all teams and held the NFL apart from the other sports leagues.
In the end, I have a hard time putting too much blame on the players for the labor battle. The players are the ones who want to maintain something like the status quo, while the owners are looking to roll back the things that made the league successful.