The list of issues between the NFLPA and NFL continues to grow by the day with more and more “experts” weighing in on what exactly is keeping the two sides from reaching a deal. As was reported, the talks on Wednesday ended abruptly and a Thursday meeting was cancelled. The two sides currently have less than three weeks to hammer out a new agreement before the old CBA expires on March 3rd and a lock-out ensues.
Gary Roberts is the dean of Indiana University’s School of Law and provided perhaps the gloomiest assessment of things so far.
“These types of labor negotiations in any industry, nine times out of 10, they don’t get done until the last minute,” said Roberts, editor-in-chief of The Sports Lawyer. “I figure the deal won’t get done until early September. That’s when the season is at risk.
“Neither side wants to blink first.”
As optimistic as I want to be about this, it’s looking more and more by the day like Roberts will be correct. The list of issues, from a rookie salary scale, to pensions for retired players to the general split of the revenues are all still up for debate and little progress seems to be getting made on any of those fronts.
Things like the length of rookie contracts under the new wage scale (players want 4-year deals for players taken in the first three rounds and 3-year deals for players taken after that, while the owners want 5-years across the board), a billion dollars in proposed revenues to be guaranteed to the owners independently of the revenue split and bonuses due in early March are all holding up negotiations (amongst many other issues).
At this point, the owners basically hold all of the cards, the players don’t have a ton of leverage. As willing as the NFLPA may be to negotiate, clearly the owners aren’t willing to concede anything at all. The owners want more money, less concessions for the players and more financial security. The players can’t even get guaranteed contracts. The group that will really get the short end of the stick is the fans though. If you couldn’t guess before, the NFL cares as much about their fans as a newly-elected congressman cares about his or her constituents. The fans have already been locked out. Next up is the players.
As for the biggest issue holding up the talks, Roberts points to the men in charge.
Roberts believes that the changes at the top for both sides since the CBA was last extended in 2006 are a factor in sluggish talks. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell succeeded the retired Paul Tagliabue in 2007, while DeMaurice Smith replaced the late Gene Upshaw as players union chief in 2008.
“If either one of them makes major concessions this early in the game, they’ll take a lot of heat,” said Roberts. “Neither can look like a softie.”
Sometimes I really wish I could swear on here.