In NFL labour dispute the players are right

Well sports fans, it looks like it’s lockout time once again. With each agonizing round of player-executive meetings, the chances of National League Football (NFL) being played in 2011 is growing dimmer by the day. Many of you don’t care because you choose to spend your Sundays either studying, recovering from a hangover or going to church. For those of us who take to the gridiron on Sundays as our place of worship, God isn’t answering our prayers.

Like most lockouts, the dispute between league executives, owners and players stems from problems with their collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Back in 2008, owners decided to opt out of the current agreement and play the 2010-2011 season without a salary cap in hopes a new CBA would be reached by the end of the season. Yes, that’s right. Players played without any agreement in place (take that Wisconsin). Players willingly accepted this proposal because they had no restrictions on how much they could earn should they be in a contract year.

Talks have been extended for one final week to broker a deal to leave all parties satisfied. An agreement for a 2011-2012 season will be decided on Mar. 11, and I’m not overly optimistic this will be achieved. Players are having a hard time accepting new provisions that would make them extend their season by two games (from 16 to 18) and likely ask them to take a pay cut. This doesn’t seem unreasonable considering how dangerous the sport is, especially with life-long injuries and traumas haunting players after their careers are over. So where do we draw the line?

While normally I would back the owners nine out of ten times when it comes to sports lockouts, I must break my trend here. The problem with the economic model of the NFL is that all revenues earned by teams are pooled together as a shared investment to be distributed to lower-earning teams, acting like equalization payments to provinces. For example, the Dallas Cowboys are one of the three most profitable franchises in all of sports, yet the Jacksonville Jaguars are always on the brink of moving or folding up altogether and have required loans from the NFL to stay afloat. So when some teams aren’t earning, the whole league suffers.

Apparently the league has been suffering more than anyone actually realized. The Green Bay Packers, the defending Super Bowl champions, were the most recently audited to show a 40 per cent loss of profits over the past five years. Naturally, owners start to look at where they can cut corners and the most obvious place to start is player salary. Player salaries currently make up almost 60 per cent of the average NFL roster — owners and league executives are trying to get this figure to around 41 per cent, meaning a drastic salary cut could occur for most players.

Like I said, normally I’d be all over cutting the salaries of people who get to play a game for a living, but not this time. It’s hard to explain to players that despite their performance and participation in finally allowing the NFL to end Major League Baseball’s (MLB) long reign as North America’s highest grossing sport, the sacrifice of their bodies and time spent away from their families wasn’t enough. When salaries in all other sports are continuing to rise at an exponential rate (especially with the looming free agency of MLB freak of nature Albert Pujols), it doesn’t seem fair to ask NFL players to take a pay cut. Factor into this that the NFL wants to add two games onto the season and now I can see why the Players’ Association is up-in-arms.

Losing out on an entire NFL season is bad for everyone involved. While advertisement revenue would still be collected regardless of whether or not a snap is played, nobody wants this lockout to happen. Fans want to see their teams, players want to play and, most importantly, owners and the league’s head office want to make money. So let’s Monty Hall this problem and make a deal. I don’t want to have to spend my Sundays doing readings — that’s blasphemous to the God Vince Lombardi. Better yet, I don’t want to be stuck watching the Canadian Football League, so please, please, please get the new CBA signed.