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The Scarlet & Black

NFL fans may suffer for greed of players and owners

Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers and their fans for claiming the biggest prize in American sports. What a Super Bowl it was, too. Much to my chagrin, the Steelers were not able to complete the second-half comeback, but the game was close at the end, and there was no shortage of big plays.

The commercials were good too. In fact, the only part of the Super Bowl that was not enjoyable to watch was the half-time show. It’s no secret that the Black Eyed Peas are the worst live performers in the history of pop music, so I am left wondering what possessed Bridgestone to book them. Sure, at the end of the day, it’s all about attracting eyeballs. There are so many acts that are just as famous as the Black Eyed Peas, though, and immensely more talented to boot. Why not give a band like the Red Hot Chili Peppers a chance to headline? As if BEP performing their own songs wasn’t bad enough, Fergie had to go and take a dump on “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Man, that sucked so hard—but I digress. The Super Bowl was great, and the ratings prove that football is still the most popular sport in America, so everything is nice and rosy in NFL Land, right? WRONG.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between team owners and the NFL Players’ Association expired at the end of the season, and if an agreement is not reached by March 4th, we are looking at a lockout. How does such a wildly profitable league find itself on the verge of a work stoppage?

On the surface, it seems as if the blame should fall squarely on the greedy owners. After all, they are the ones who decided to opt out of the current CBA two years early. NFL owners are certainly an evil bunch—Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones come to mind—but it is foolish to dismiss their concerns with the current CBA as illegitimate. The current CBA, extended in 2006, gives players 59.6 percent of total revenue and implemented a revenue-sharing plan in which the league’s 15 highest-earning franchises subsidize the 17 teams that earn the least. This CBA would be all fine and good if we were still in the 1990s, but we’re in 2011 now, and we have to deal with a couple of modern realities.

The primary argument from the owners is that the current CBA does not account for the high-risk investments owners have made on new stadiums and other capital expenditures. From the 1970s through the 1990s, stadiums that were partly or wholly subsidized by taxpayers were the norm. However, this is no longer the case, as taxpayers begin to realize that football stadiums are expensive as hell, and may actually cause more harm than good in the community. Thus, many owners are pouring millions and millions of borrowed dollars to build new state-of-the-art facilities. On the flip side, though, some teams still have favorable stadium deals that call for little or no expenditures from the organization.

Therefore, Jerry Jones still has to write a check to Mike Brown, owner of the Cincinnati Bengals, even though Mike Brown is making a far greater profit because of his low overhead costs. Many owners claim that some of their peers intentionally keep revenues low to maintain their spot in the NFL’s lower 17 and ensure that they’ll receive a subsidy. Owners are pissed, and that attitude definitely comes through in their proposed changes to the CBA.

The NFL’s annual revenue stream is about $9 billion. Under the current CBA, owners automatically take $1 billion off the top, and then give roughly 60% of the remaining $8 billion to the players. The owners want to continue to give the players 60 percent—but of a smaller pie. They are proposing that they should take about $2.4 billion off the top, a number they say reflects the changing economic realities of the era, and then give players 60 percent of the remaining $6.6 billion. I did the math, y’all—that’s a 17.5 percent reduction in revenue going to the players. Under the current CBA, owners are receiving $4.2 billion in revenue, while the players receive $4.8 billion. Under the changes proposed by the owners, players would receive $3.96 billion, while the owners would receive $5.04 billion. While I think that the owners’ concerns about changing economic times and an unfair revenue-sharing policy are legitimate, I think that their initial proposal is laughably aggressive. The NFLPA is not going to agree to this, and rightfully so—this is a “Madoff-esque” con-job that the owners are trying to pull. The NFLPA has offered a couple of counter-proposals, though, that I think are extremely reasonable. The first counter-proposal is to let the Players Association see the owners’ audited financial statements so they can determine if such a hit to their revenue is justified. The second counter-proposal is to just split the $9 billion in half with 50 percent to the owners and 50 percent to the players. The owners, of course, refused both of these proposals.

The players have come up with two very reasonable counter-proposals, but the owners feel like they don’t need to negotiate at this point. Not only is the start of the regular season months away, but the players’ health coverage runs out if no new deal is in place by March 4th. Also, owners could, in theory, reduce their operating expenses by up to 50 percent via elimination of player salaries and temporary layoffs or salary reductions of other employees. TV deals with DirecTV and other broadcast networks would continue to pay owners during a lockout, and that revenue should be able to cover the reduced operating expenses of a lost season. As much money as NFL players make, they would be more financially stressed during a lockout than the owners, and when one factors in the relatively short career span of an NFL player, it is a no-brainer who has the upper-hand in labor negotiations. As a fan, I would like to see owners ratchet down their demands a bit and save the 2011-2012 NFL season. After all, NFL players put the team on their back every week and do this shit … for Madden the fans.

-Kunal Bansal ’12

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    Kramer J McLuckieFeb 18, 2011 at 10:01 am

    RHCP are on indefinite hiatus (broke up). Otherwise, unimpeachable excellence.