Impasse over Power could be Chaotic for NFL's future
Great article, hope it shines some light on the issue!
Impasse over power could be chaotic for NFL's future [/size]
By Ron Borges
March 4, 2006
Someone has to blink. In the end, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the only thing that will lead to a peaceful resolution of the NFLÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s boiling labor problem in what is fast becoming a negotiation not over business decisions, but over testosterone levels.
For more than a decade, professional football has enjoyed unprecedented labor peace, and the NFL has prospered mightily because of it.
Several times, the NFL Players Association has quietly extended the Collective Bargaining Agreement, allowing the owners to continue to flourish under the present salary-cap system that guarantees fixed labor costs, something most industries would die for and are dying without.
But with a new league year approaching Monday, when the new free-agency period is set to begin after a three-day postponement, owners and the NFLPA have been locked in a deepening morass of rhetoric, ever-less-veiled threats and the very clear possibility that things could spin out of control despite the sad lessons of baseball and hockey, whose labor situations have deeply injured their games.
Even a longtime critic of the salary cap, agent Leigh Steinberg, admits as much, stating that while he believes the cap has hurt the game on the field, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a godsend in the boardrooms, be they corporate ones or labor ones.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The fact that we have labor peace does one amazing thing for football: It creates certainty in fansÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ minds that games will be played, and it [has] allowed the NFL to catapult to the No. 1 entertainment attraction in the United States and allows the NFLPA and the NFL to jointly go out and create all these ancillary revenue streams and has ushered in an era of unparalleled prosperity,Ã¢â‚¬Â Steinberg said.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s what it does. Even though itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a flawed system, the fact that we have labor peace has created this incredible era or prosperity for everybody involved. If we pull the genie out of that bottle, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if it ever comes back. If we get to that uncapped year (2007) and everyone involved in professional football gets to state their objections and we get all sorts of proud men with their backs up against the wall, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t think that we ever get a Collective Bargaining Agreement together again, and we may go another 10 years (without one). So even though I think the uncapped year would be like the Oklahoma land rush or the California gold rush (for players and, to a lesser extent, agents), I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know that we ever get back to [a CBA] again. So I hope that we donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t ever get there.Ã¢â‚¬Â
When even the agents are rooting for the extension of an agreement that guarantees most of their clients will never enjoy a guaranteed contract like baseball, basketball and hockey players now accept as the norm, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d think the two sides doing the negotiating could come to a quick agreement.
But both the owners and the union are fighting two of the most powerful forces of evil this time Ã¢â‚¬â€ greed and power Ã¢â‚¬â€ and the latter is more significant than the former.
Money is always an issue. Usually itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the biggest issue. But this time, thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a larger issue lurking, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s proving more difficult to resolve. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the issue of whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in charge, the owners or the renters.
For the first time in years, the players want more than increased pay and improved benefits. What they want is a seat at the table. They want to be treated as what the owners and commissioner Paul Tagliabue kept telling them they were when they kept extending the CBA without a fight. They want to be treated like the Ã¢â‚¬Å“partnersÃ¢â‚¬Â those owners said they were.
The NFLPA wants a say in how the 32 teams divide the unevenly growing pot of local revenue, a stream of income that has skyrocketed in places like New England, Houston, Dallas, Washington and a few other cities but has remained only a trickle in less forward-thinking organizations such as those of Tom Benson in New Orleans, Bill Bidwill in Arizona and Mike Brown in Cincinnati.
Union head Gene Upshaw has told the owners he wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t make a deal until the owners agree to share equally those local revenues in the same way they do national TV income and other major revenue streams. UpshawÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s position is if that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t happen, the gap between the haves and have-nots will widen to the point where more teams will pay their players only to the capÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s minimum while the few pay to the max, thus turning football into baseball, where one team, the Yankees, pays its infield more than the Devil Rays pay their entire roster. To that, their Ã¢â‚¬Å“partners,Ã¢â‚¬Â also known as the owners, said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Mind your own business.Ã¢â‚¬Â Hence, testosterone levels increase.
The sticking point is UpshawÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s insistence that the burgeoning local revenues of the top nine teams be shared with the less successful Ã¢â‚¬â€ a form of corporate welfare that has owners like Jeff Lurie in Philadelphia irked and then some. The owners say theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re willing to put all revenue into the salary-cap pot now, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s up to them what, if any, portion of local revenue will be shared among themselves. The Gang of Nine feel, understandably, that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s unfair to see their team generating the bulk of that local revenue while getting back only one-thirty-second, and those owners, and others, feel that how they share revenue among themselves is none of the employeesÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ business.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“We have a revenue-sharing program in place that tries to address the needs of small-market clubs that might need help on a temporary basis,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Texans owner Bob McNair, one of the Gang of Nine. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think everyone in the league wants all of the clubs to be competitive, so to the extent that clubs need help to be competitive, I think that there has been a willingness on the part of large-market teams to be supportive of that effort. When it goes beyond any requirement to be competitive, and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just a redistribution of profits, thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a different issue.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Recently, Steelers owner Dan Rooney, long considered the conscience of the league and a bridge between the old ways and the new thinking of the Gang of Nine, admitted he felt there was now a greater division between different groups of owners than there was between all owners combined and the NFLPA, a suggestion McNair rejected in a way that only served to emphasize the widening problem.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t agree with that,Ã¢â‚¬Â McNair said. Ã¢â‚¬Å“I think that the big problem is between the Players Association and the owners. We have a very healthy league, and we want it to remain healthy. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been a big difference between what the Players Association wants and what the owners can do. In reference to differences between the owners, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m confident weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll resolve those differences when weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re ready to do it.Ã¢â‚¬Â
In other words, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s none of the unionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s business when or how the issue of sharing local revenue is settled, because when it comes to the real money issues, the players are not their Ã¢â‚¬Å“partnersÃ¢â‚¬Â at all. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re the employees. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re renters, not owners.
But the NFLPA no longer sees it that way, and hence a problem grows that is far larger than what percentage of total gross revenues will ultimately go to the players in the form of an increased salary cap. This became clear when it was learned that UpshawÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s other sticking point in the negotiations is the unionÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s belief that because it has to sign off on what is called G-3 loans, which are loans from the league to individual teams to help finance the new stadiums that have helped drive up franchise values, they deserve a cut of the net gain when those franchises are sold in the form of whatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s called a flip tax.
Owners went pale at that suggestion, but Upshaw continues to tell them itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a deal-breaker because the players help fund these new stadiums, since the loans come out of the gross revenue pool used to establish the cap and must be OKÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d by the NFLPA. If the pool is lessened by what is put into G-3 funding, it lowers the cap and thus their incomes, with nothing coming back in return. Makes sense if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a Ã¢â‚¬Å“partner.Ã¢â‚¬Â Makes owners threaten to hold their breath until they turn blue.
By now you begin to see the problem. A negotiation that used to be about money has become about power in the workplace, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a battle owners donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t intend on losing. Their player Ã¢â‚¬Å“partnersÃ¢â‚¬Â feel the same way, so there you have it. An impasse that wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be easy to solve, because if the owners decide to show the players the difference between an owner and a renter, there will be no extension of the CBA. Instead, there will be a tough 2006, a crazy and capless Ã¢â‚¬â„¢07 and then years of chaos.
Impasse over power/ PFW
Re: Impasse over Power could be Chaotic for NFL's future
Just can't wait until it's over.
If it ever gets over.