NFL Armageddon 2011: The two steps forward, one step backwards report
Week 12 of the 2010 National Football League schedule ends tonight with a lacklustre Monday Night Football game – the San Francisco 49ers heading to Phoenix to meet the Arizona Cardinals. It was a short week that was highlighted by news of NFL officials and representatives from the NFL Players Association meeting a week ago to talk collective bargaining agreement (CBA). Two surprises – first the two sides suggested they would not meet until early December and more importantly for the first time in months, NFL.com reported the two sides had actually had positive discussions.
As first reported by NFL.com’s Jason La Canfora, those who attended the meeting are the key players to reaching a new labor accord: present at the meeting were NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. Other attendees included Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, NFLPA executive committee member Domonique Foxworth, player advocate Ernie Conwell and player representative Pete Kendall. Getting Goodell and Smith in the same room at the same time is a move in the right direction.
The focus of the meeting was on the proposed 18-game regular season schedule. From the outside looking in, the 18-game schedule may be the key to a new CBA. An 18-game schedule would increase football generated revenue and sponsorship dollars, two keys to the NFL owners and NFL players agreeing to a distribution of football generated revenues. NFL owners want the players to ‘give-back’ money they have been making. One of the best ways for that not to happen will be for additional revenues to be generated. Both sides could get what they are looking for, the owners more money and the players they money they have been receiving from the owners.
While New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft did not attend the meeting, once again one of the NFL’s more influential owners spoke out in a Boston Globe report as to why he believes there will be a new NFL CBA in place before Super Bowl XLV set for February 6, 2011. Which is more than a full month before the current CBA expires on March 5, 2011.
“I want to assure our fans and everyone else that I’m doing everything within my power to try to help to see if there isn’t a way we can’t have labor peace before the season ends,’’ Kraft said. “In my mind, it’s possible and actually something that should happen.
“Knowing what I know now — and I’m privileged to see a lot of what’s going on — there’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone associated with the NFL to grow together.
“I came out right away after our last [labor] meeting and said I believe [a deal will happen]. And I believe it even more now six weeks later.
“I think there will be real business contracted in the not-so-distant future, real opportunities to do things. And we’ll see. What’s going to happen here is I think we have a responsibility to bargain in good faith and then the other side has to come back and bargain in good faith.’’
Either Robert Kraft is the eternal optimist (as SBN’s insider profile of Kraft suggested a few weeks back) or Robert Kraft continues to know something the rest of us are not aware of. What can Robert Kraft offer on the current state of labor talks? Insight and understanding few people have, Kraft knows what he is talking about.
“I remember the lockouts in 1982 and ’87,’’ he said. “It changed the way I looked at things in the fall. I was ticked.’’
Sports labor talks through 2002 often ended in disaster. Sports first real armageddon aside (the 2004-05 NHL season lost to a labor dispute between NHL owners and the NHL Players Association) the 2002 MLB labor accord reached hours before the 2002 MLB season would have been ruined like the 1994 MLB season (with a labor dispute) never happened when the two sides reached a new agreement as the clock had stuck midnight.
“We did an analysis that showed if we wind up having a lockout and we go right to Labor Day weekend and we get games going at the last minute — and that’s how union negotiations are, everyone takes extreme positions and everyone acts tough and you have brinksmanship and at the end you settle — well, that would not be good business.
“The whole ripple effect of the NFL and the impact, it wouldn’t be good. We collectively would lose a billion dollars, even if we played every game but we had this vacuum from the end of the season until the beginning of September.
“In the end, it’s not just ownership that’s hurt. Over 50 percent of that revenue, one way or the other, is going to the players. So it’s hurting them.’’
Kraft told The Boston Globe that last weeks discussions on the proposed 18-game schedule are indeed a step in the right direction.
“Yeah, I think that’s the makings of a deal,’’ Kraft said. “That together with what we know we can create shifting to 18 games, the incremental revenue, together with having a rookie slotted system, give the union some kind of guarantee that that money is going to be spent on players.
“Those two things allow us to do a deal. The only people [hurt] in the short term are the incoming rookies who haven’t built the game. Give the money to the guys that have built it.
“So we have the makings of a deal, and I just . . . yeah, it was encouraging to see that, and we’re going to have to do things we know with roster sizes and things like that.’’
Kraft remains focused on sending out this message as he told the Boston Globe – it makes good business sense for everyone if the two sides work towards negotiating a new CBA much sooner rather than later.
“I’m trying to do this in the best interest of both sides because I know that there’s enough there for each side to come out a winner,’’ Kraft said. “So that’s why I think we have to go like the dickens and push very hard.
“We don’t need the way typical negotiations go — you start high, you start low — because time is the enemy here. The passage of time is opportunity lost, where we both lose big. And there’s enough good things happening that we can grab it together and it allows us to do the deal. Now we just have to force our two sides together to get it done.’’
The NFLPA reported that NFLPA President Kevin Mawae wrote letters to elected officials, alerting them of the urgency of the current NFL labor negotiations. The letters were dated November 22, 2010 – 100 days until the current CBA expires and NFL Armageddon 2011 would “kickoff”
These letters according to the NFLPA’s labor related website told governors and mayors to consider the economic impact a lockout would have on the people they represent.
“As a public official, you are vividly aware of the enormous challenges that have arisen from the worst economic crisis in the United States since the Great Depression,” wrote Mawae.
“Particularly during the next 100 days, before a potential lock out by Owners, we strongly urge you to think about the hundreds of thousands of stadium workers, hotel and restaurant workers and other working people … who support the [teams] as dedicated employees and fans.”
The NFLPA letter suggested each of the 31 American cites home to an NFL franchise, stands to lose as much as $160 million in lost jobs and revenue. The NFLPA did not suggest how they managed to reach the $160 million figure.
The NFL's response appeared on NFLLabor.com (the NFL’s labor related website) and suggested there is no need to get political leaders involved.
"The union’s request for state and local political leaders to intercede in the negotiations ignores and denigrates the serious and far more substantial problems that those leaders," the league's statement says, "and that state and local workers across the country face. We can resolve our own issues as we have done many times in the past but the NFLPA has to want to participate in resolving them.
"Nobody—least of all NFL owners – wants to shut down our business. The best way to ensure uninterrupted NFL football in 2011 is for the union to stop asking everyone else to solve its problems and to sit down and engage in serious, constructive bargaining. If the union does so, we can and will reach an agreement."
Mawae wrote Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell and Governor-elect Tom Corbett offering some very chilly observations.
"It isn't an exaggeration to state that the impact would be devastating to the thousands of working men and women in the Pittsburgh area whose incomes depend on the massive, flourishing business that the Pittsburgh Steelers generates," Mr. Mawae wrote.
According to Timothy McNulty from The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the City of Pittsburgh lost an estimated
$1.6 million in amusement, parking and payroll taxes during the NHL’s lost season work stoppage and other businesses lost an estimated $48 million, according to the Greater Pittsburgh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"It is incredibly disheartening to know that the passion of Pittsburgh Steelers fans and the local and state funds that have benefited the team in the form of land grants and other tax subsidies are apparently taken for granted by NFL owners like Mr. Rooney," Mawae wrote in his letter to Pittsburgh area politicians.
If anyone believes, given the billion dollar plus deficits that most cities and states are facing along with rampant unemployment, politicians will step up to the plate and become involved in a game of politics and football they are kidding themselves. Both the NFL and the NFLPA are wasting everyone’s time with letters and campaigns that target politicians.
“During one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, NFL owners are preparing to cancel the 2011 season and, in the process, devastate New York businesses and stadium workers who count on football Sundays to make ends meet,” Mawae said in a statement to be released with the New York letter. “It is our hope that the owners will shelve this plan and negotiate in good faith to ensure that we are playing for the fans in 2011.”
While some progress was made this past week the letters written by Mawae make this almost a case of two steps forward and one step backwards. There was an ‘actionable’ event this past week but on the same day that event took place the NFLPA sent a series of letters to key political leaders suggesting all hell was about to break loose. What message do the players really send out if that is part of their strategic information plan?
If as Robert Kraft believes the two sides are capable of reaching a new agreement before the Lombardi Trophy is presented on February 6, 2011 at the end of Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium, the two sides had better take the next three months very seriously. Not a great deal of business will get done between December 20 and January 3 – making the next three weeks key to avoiding NFL Armageddon 2011. The best news (yet), Profootballtalk.com reports NFLPA spokesman George Atallah committed to devoting two weeks to intensive negotiations during the month of December.
For SportsBusinessNews.com this is Howard Bloom Sources cited and used in this insider report: NFL.com, http://www.nfllockout.com and http://nfllabor.com