Monday, November 15, 2010

NFL Armageddon 2011 – the NFL Lockout getting closer everyday

Another great week of National Football League games end tonight with the Philadelphia Eagles and Michael Vick heading to Washington’s FedEx Stadium to meet the Redskins. One of the more intriguing stories of the 2010 season has been the resurrection of Michael Vick as a football player. One of the more intriguing off-season stories would have been where Vick would be playing next year and how big a contract he would be offered. Instead, once the Lombardi Trophy is presented to the Super Bowl winner at Cowboys Stadium on February 6, 2011 football fans should be focused on March 5, 2011 the day the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players Association expires.

“A lot of negotiations wait until the 11:59 [mark],” Commissioner Roger Goodell told the NFL Network Thursday night. “I think that’s a mistake in this case. Uncertainty is bad for the game, it’s bad for the players; it’s bad for the fans. I think we need to reach an agreement sooner rather than later because it starts to hurt and impact the game and the fans.”

The two sides have not had a meaningful negotiation (arguably yet) and the two sides will not meet again until sometime in December. Whatever message the NFL and the NFLPA continue to send out to – it is not one where there is any real sense of urgency between the two sides in relationship to talking about a new CBA.

“I think there needs to be more of a sense of urgency. There are discussions going on. I think they have to be more productive though. It’s not just about whether you’re having meetings, it’s about productivity. We need to reach an agreement that will allow the players to continue to have success, to allow the teams to continue to have success, and to make the game better and bring more football to more fans.” Goodell told the NFL Network. What did Goodell offer, much to do about nothing, more rhetoric and little if anything else?

Speaking in Atlanta Thursday night after the Falcons/Ravens Thursday night game, Goodell suggested a new CBA would be a key towards seeing the NFL stadium boom continue.

"That's one of the reasons we're focused on restructuring the collective bargaining agreement, to make sure that we have the kind of structure that will allow us to make those kind of investments in the game and the communities which allow the game to continue to grow," Goodell said. "That is good for the players, good for the teams, good for the communities. That's something we want to continue to focus on."

Among the cities looking for new NFL stadiums are: Atlanta, Minnesota, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego.

The Georgia Dome opened in 1992 (four years before Atlanta hosted the 1996 Olympic Games) and hosted the Super Bowl in 1994 and 2000. While not directly tying the building of a new stadium to hosting a Super Bowl for the Falcons, Goodell suggested as much Thursday evening.

"The bar has been raised because you're getting great facilities around the country in great communities," Goodell told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "These games are a tremendous value to the communities, so there's a lot of competition for it. So I think a new stadium with this great community would be beneficial to bringing another Super Bowl to this community."

Just how divided is the NFLPA and the NFL? Two events this past week illustrated the two sides are not on the same page, reading the same book or in the same library. columnist Ben Smith Thursday reported the AFL-CIO who laughingly had offered to mediate the dispute between the NFL and the NFLPA instead decided it was in the AFL-CIO’s interest to instead join forces with the NFLPA. What if any credibility does the AFL-CIO after their about face?

According to Smith: “In a memo to local chapters, AFL president Richard Trumka writes that "the NFLPA is a unique organization in many respects, certain because of the high-profile nature of their work and members, but also in that it is one national union without local unions or chapters."

The November 8 memo saw Trumka embrace the NFLPA. James Parks took the time to highlight some of the reasons why the AFL-CIO believes so strongly in the goals and objectives of the NFLPA.

“It happens too often. Workers become more productive, often risking serious injury on the job, and make the owners more money. But instead of sharing the wealth, the owners demand givebacks and threaten to shut down the company if the workers don’t agree.

“The only difference this time is that the workers include such household names as Drew Brees, Ray Lewis, Peyton Manning and James Harrison—all stars of the National Football League. NFL team owners are threatening to lock out players next season, and the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) is joining with the other workers in the stadiums and the rest of the union movement to fight management’s greed. Today, the NFLPA announced that its members will fully affiliate with all AFL-CIO state federations and the central labor councils where their NFL teams are based.

“The owners terminated the collective bargaining agreement two years ago because, they say, it isn’t working for them. But they refuse to provide audited financial information to explain what is wrong in a business that generated $9 billion in 2009 during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“The owners are demanding that the players give back $1 billion, although not one team has lost money. They also want players to pay for team travel and the cost of running practice facilities.

“Not only are the players affected, but the jobs of more than 25,000 concession workers at stadiums across the country are threatened by the lockout, which would cost more then $140 million in revenue for each of the 32 NFL cities.

“On top of that, the owners have threatened to make the players pay for their own health care in case of a lockout. As it is, management provides only five years of health care coverage after players retire. Players’ NFL careers average only 3.4 years and many retire with a range of serious health problems. Not many people would argue that facing a 325-pound lineman running at full speed over and over could be dangerous to your health.”

As the doomsday clock inches forward to March 5, the Associated Press reported the NFLPA formally rejected an offer from the NFL to assist retired NFL players. Miki Yara-Davis, senior director of benefits for the NFLPA told AP: “too many former players aged 50-75 would not pass a screening by TransAmerica, the insurance company that would underwrite the plan, because those players have pre-existing conditions from playing football.

"Let's not have a select few covered," she said. "It is our belief the company will reject them … and a significant number of seemingly healthy players will not be covered."

The NFL suggested that the policy would be available to 2,500 of 3,200 eligible players and their spouses.

"We expect, as does the insurer, that 80 per cent or more of retired players in this group would qualify," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. "This means that 2,500 retired players would qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in long-term care benefits that they do not receive today.

"The policy has many desirable features, including a 30-40 per cent discount for both players and their spouses if the spouse chooses to purchase the same coverage given to the player."

How out of touch are current NFL players and their leadership from the gridiron greats who gave their hearts, souls and bodies to build the NFL into a billion dollar business?

George Martin, executive director of NFL Alumni (the leader of the retired players) sent letters last month to both Goodell and NFLA executive director DeMaurice Smith pleading with the NFL and the NFLPA to support the proposal.

"I am very disappointed," Martin, the former defensive end of the New York Giants told the AP. "There's a cadre of former ballplayers who would have passed it with flying colours. This is a great opportunity to attain a supplemental policy."

Yaras-Davis made it quite clear, she and the NFLPA believes there are far too many flaws in the plan to support it.

"If you are, say, 59 years old, you know you have general health issues: high blood pressure, high cholesterol. It could be prostate cancer in that age group," she said. "With our group of players, we know they have some concussion-related mental health issues, brain trauma issues, heart-related problems. That's to say nothing of the players already permanently afflicted with arthritis.

"We are looking at a group that can easily be disqualified from coverage for many things, some of which are football-related and some of which are not."

While close to 80 percent of former NFL players would be eligible for the coverage, Yaras-Davis hung her hat on Hall of Fame players as John Mackey, who suffers from dementia and Mike Haynes, who has battled prostate cancer who would not qualify for the coverage.

McCarthy suggested Yaras-Davis just was not quite telling the entire story. According to McCarthy "Any retiree disqualified due to dementia, ALS or another cognitive disorder will have access to the benefits of The 88 Plan."

The aforementioned 88 Plan is named after Mackey specifically provides the NFL and the NFLPA the ability to help former players suffering from dementia or related brain problems.

"Why are you criticizing the source if at the end of day that source will provide an unprecedented benefit for a large group of players," NFL Alumni head Martin offered the AP. "It's not the wise approach; look at what that benefit will provide for the larger audience."

When the two sides finally do sit down face-to-face and seriously address the issues that will make up the next NFL CBA the decision to move towards an 18 game regular season schedule (while dropping the pre-season from four games to two) will be one of the burning issues.

While the owners are essentially looking for the players to give money back to the owners, one of the tools the NFL will likely use to leverage the players to agree to an 18 game schedule is a suggestion they will pay the players what they are paying now (no cutbacks) if the players agree to an 18 game regular season schedule. NFL owners will then attempt to generate those two additional regular season games (games they will not have to pay the players anymore money for) into bigger television and sponsorship agreements – greater revenues, revenues the owners under this scenario will keep from the players.

Along with suggesting to NFL players it will be in their interest to agree to playing two more games, count on NFL owners to “suggest” they are looking to regularly schedule Thursday and maybe even Saturday night games throughout the entire 18 game NFL (revised) regular season schedule. The players, they appear less than armoured with Thursday night games or an 18 game schedule.

"You do it because it’s part of the business," Ray Lewis told The Baltimore Sun. "But I’m almost guaranteeing that 99 percent of us would vote against that.

"It goes back to the 18-game schedule," Lewis said. "You have to ask yourself a real question when you schedule games like this: Who does it help? Because it doesn’t help the players. That turnaround is just too quick. You go from playing a physical game on Sunday and you have less than four days before you have to physically get back up again. It takes a week for guys to really heal."

Lewis added, "I don’t know when they put it in but I’ve never liked it."

For this is Howard Bloom. Sources cited and used in this Insider Report: AP,, AFL-CIO, Baltimore Sun

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