Wednesday, March 16, 2011

*NFL vs NFLPA: F The Fans


    If the NFL were a clothing company, the Players Association would be an Indonesian child labour sweat shop. Okay, so it would be a lavish and extravagant sweat shop where the child labourers were adored by millions of people worldwide, but the metaphor still rings true.

   As the reality of an NFL lockout grows more probable by the minute, one question seems to come to the minds of many fans: What did we do to deserve this? Players are fighting for a larger cut of the revenue, the owners are fighting to maintain control of that revenue, and in the meantime the people who generate said revenue are left hangin' in the wind.

    How does the most lucrative sport in North America get to the point where it is willing to shut down operations for an entire year? If you have yet to pass the B.A.R. exam it may cause you brain pain to examine the complexities of the situation. Quite simply, the owners have a good thing going here, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep it that way.

    The NFL generates more revenue than any other sport on this continent, an estimated 9 billion a year. Despite these massive numbers, NFL players are on average the lowest paid in comparison to the other three major team sports. Take for example the NHL; a league which has attendance and revenue issues with at least one quarter of their franchises, yet the average NHLer makes about triple the amount their NFL counterparts are bringing in.

   You're probably thinking "what preposterous fuckery!". Indeed, and it gets better. The NFL is also the only major North American sport not to offer it's players guaranteed contracts, which means a team can cut a player for any reason at any time, and not owe him another penny. For example Donovan McNabb, who signed a multi-year deal for 80+ million dollars could very well be cut before the coming season (if the season in fact comes), and the Redskins would only be on the hook for about four million. 

    As if all of that isn't enough for the players to have a valid case for being disgruntled, take into account that the average length of an NFLer's career is only three and a half seasons, and they also have the highest injury rate per player than any other North American team sport. Although these guys are famous, and well paid (minimum rookie salary is $225,000 which is nothing to sneeze at, although the NHL's rookie minimum is somewhere around $850,000) they are truly getting the shit end of the stick in the sports world. The proverbial raw deal.

    In an attempt to fight fire with fire, the players have decertified the NFL Players Association, turning it from a union to a trade association. What they hope to accomplish by this is to counter the threat of a lockout by filing a class-act antitrust lawsuit against the owners. Whether this will fly or not is yet to be seen, as the NFL, along with the NBA, NHL, and MLB have government-granted antitrust exemption. This could be overturned in the hands of the right judge, and the owners would be barred from locking the players out, thus greasing the wheels for a new collective bargaining agreement to be approved, and averting the public relations disaster that the lockout would create. All of this is yet to be seen, and extremely hard to forecast, as there are a multitude of issues involved in a single case.

    There is a somewhat ignorant notion amongst casual sports fans that athletes are already grossly overpaid, and shouldn't be crybabies asking for more, but the fact of the matter is that sports is a business driven by revenue. The people generating that revenue should get their rightful percentage of it. Actually, to be fair, a recent twitter post by Drew Brees, one of the players leading the charge in the battle against Scrooge McDuck and the rest of the NFL owners, speaks volumes to the resolve of the players: "Not once have the players asked for more money during this negotiation. That is a FACT. I don't expect anyone to feel sorry for us".

    What they are fighting for is fair working conditions (meaning NOT adding two extra games to the season), better pension plans to protect the financial future of their union members, and transparency from their domineering, tyrannical employers so that a fair percentage of revenue sharing can be established. These guys are giving themselves severe long-term brain trauma to make thirty-two old men very, very rich. All they want from their bosses is what most of us want from our bosses: for them to cut the bullshit.

Oh, and NBA: pay attention. You're going to be dancing to this tune very soon...


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