No one side deserves all the blame, but one side deserves more.

How Is This Becoming So One-Sided?


It may just be me, but in the days since the NFL and the NFLPA pulled what many writers have dubbed a ‘Thelma and Louise’ and ran their proverbial car off the side of a cliff, opinion seems to have swung against the players. The players union is a now defunct association that still functions suspiciously like a union. And the owners meanwhile are putting a full-on media blitz, releasing statements club by club that are visibly coordinated. Seriously, read the letters from the various teams and tell me a college professor wouldn’t catch one for plagiarism of the other.

Both sides, are at this point, big parts of the problem. Be it pride, greed or just miscommunication, things have been botched on both sides and they both deserve credit for letting it get to this point. But make absolutely no mistake about it, the only reason any of this is even an issue is entirely the fault of the owners. The CBA was not set to expire this year initially, it was set to expire two years down the road. The owners, despite the unparalleled growth and profitability of the NFL under the old CBA opted out of that agreement. They are the side that failed to live up to their end of a bargain that they negotiated and agreed to, that much is not disputed.

You can hide behind the contractual semantics all you want, and that’s fine there’s no morality or ethics in business. But to a man, the owners didn’t hold up their end of the deal. They opted out, then forced the players to renegotiate a deal that was profiting both sides. Everything from there is up to debate, but before consensus swings too sharply in the direction of the owners, it’s worth mentioning that they’re the group that reneged on their end of the deal and caused this whole situation at this juncture, to begin with.

If the owners had let the original deal expire, and then come to the negotiating table this would be a lot different. Then they wouldn’t have to scapegoat the players. If the owners had approached it like,– ‘the last deal worked well, but lately some disconcerting economic trends have begun to develop and we need to address those in this CBA’ – well then that would have seemed totally reasonable.

But that’s not how it happened. They opted out, that’s factual. Then they asked the players to give back a billion dollars and play two extra games. That’s also factual. This all happens as the NFL is more profitable than ever, right in the middle of a recession, and now they’re saying they have enough money to survive even without a 2011 season.

Do you see what I’m hammering at here? If the league just had a record year for profit, something they’ve touted a lot and they could actually survive a season-long furlough, what the hell do you need a billion dollars back for? In no way am I insinuating that the players have been entirely reasonable throughout this process or that they are without blame or anything like that.

All I’m saying is if your company was touting record profits and they came to you with an ultimatum of take a pay-cut of 20-30% or lose your job, you might talk to a lawyer or see if you could do anything about that in court. Seriously, are any of you reading this saying, “no I’d probably just take it on the chin?” If you had any possible recourse or way to fight that, wouldn’t you take it? The players have that shot, that chance to fight it, and I doubt any of you could seriously tell me you wouldn’t take that same shot if you were in that kind of situation.

You want how much back? Seriously?

Because keep in mind, the players aren’t asking the owners for anything. Now, the books and the financial disclosure and all of that are a big sham argument. I don’t buy any of that BS, that’s not even the crux of what this is about. The players were always going to go to the courts, and that’s exactly what they should have done. You all would have done the same thing if there was any chance it would work, too. The NFL is trying to twist their arms, so how can you really blame the players association for saying, ‘The NFL is more profitable than ever, everyone’s doing well under the old CBA, if you want a billion dollars back you’re really going to need to sell this to us or we’re going to try to fight you in the courts.’

Like I said, this would all have a much different tone if the old CBA had expired naturally. But the owners opted out of it early and need a billion back, that’s asking a lot.  And this isn’t a master-servant relationship, the two sides are supposed to be (according to rhetoric) partners. That’s a pretty-one sided ‘partnership,’ almost reminiscent of a mob partnership. If that’s how the NFL is approaching the negotiations, it’s not a partnership at all.

But what I love most about this whole strange ordeal is that the fans are actually siding with the owners. Really?! Even if you think the players are at fault, don’t side with the NFL. I’ve already mentioned (at length) how this is all happening right now because a certain party didn’t want to live up to their end of the last deal. And I’ve mentioned that they’re really the side that’s rocking the boat here. But even if you don’t believe that, please don’t buy that load about how they love and care about their fans.

Is that why it’s 35 dollars for an NFL t-shirt? Is that why it’s over 200 for a nice jersey? Because it doesn’t cost anywhere near that to make either of those. Is that why they tried to sue vendors in an economically devastated city for selling black t-shirts with gold fluer-de-lis? Is that why they charged 400 dollars for the right to crowd around TVs outside of the Superbowl? Or why despite knowing beforehand, they didn’t notify the fans who’d bought Superbowl tickets to seats that didn’t exist that they had no seats before they left for Dallas? Is that why every new stadium (that all get at least partially funded by taxpayers) contains fewer and fewer regular seats and more luxury boxes? Tampa, is that why they blacked out every home game all season in one of the cities with the five worst unemployment rates in the country? Because the NFL loves it fans? No, the NFL is a business and fans are the consumer and they stick it to them every time they get the chance.

Most insulting, the only reason any of the owners are even audacious enough to attempt this is because they take for granted the fact the fans will just come back. The only other industry with that much ‘confidence’ in their consumers is big tobacco. I’m serious. That’s not love, the NFL views it fans as a cash cow. A big, unthinking cash cow.

I feel like what I’ve described on the part of the owners could be described as an unreasonable position. Asking for a billion dollars back after failing to live up to your end of a deal, while your business is at an all-time high despite an awful economy (and asking the players to play more and take less) can seem at least a little bit unreasonable. And yet they serve all of that to the public as if their position is so reasonable that the players are completely at fault for the fact there may be no football next year. That’s how much they respect the fans’ intelligence.

And you know what’s sad? They’re right. I’m still going to watch the NFL just like pretty much everyone I know. The merchandise will still sell. But don’t buy into the BS. We may love the product and football may be a huge part of our lives, but let’s not pretend the owners or on our side or doing us any favors. They’re only looking to take advantage. Just like the players found out.

You might not be happy with the players union and they’ve done some things wrong, but they didn’t cause any of this. They just reacted to it.

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Tags: Blame CBA Fault Lockout NFL NFLPA Owners Player

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  • http://atlantaroofingresources.com/ Atlanta Roofing

    Seeing as how our taxes were increased to build most of the stadiums in the valley I’d say we all have a piece in the pie, but having said that the rhetoric of NFL players have very short careers…to that I say, so what…Nobody is forcing them to play or take the big bucks if they rise to the top…Having said that no NFL season would probably cause a number in the 1000’s of neighborhood bars to go out of business, so it will have a nasty ripple not having an NFL season.

  • ToddO

    Just one small question…..if the league is doing as well as you purport then why did the Packers profit fall from $20.1 million to only $9.8 million last year? Weird….you’d think all this record talk(BS) would reflect in their earnings. NOPE. Why is that? Could it be increasing costs….healthcare, equipment, travel, etc etc….you see all that comes out of the owners slice of the pie. As these costs increase, the players are shielding from any of it.

    Why would an NFL franchise only clear less than ten million of a NINE BILLION DOLLAR PIE? Weird. Several players on GB made more than the freaking franchise? Weird.

    Could it be the players are overpaid….that owners screwed up and gave them TOO much? Of course. And with any correction….it stings. The players KNOW this…why do you think they they keep whining…”we don’t want to change a thing”….uhhhhh…..no shinola. AT almost a $5 billion take….why would they want to change?

    Owners own and players play.

    • Patrik Nohe

      Yes, the Packers made ONLY 9.8 million in operating profit. They also received 95.8 million dollars in television revenue, a number that will go up. They made 45.8 million in merchandise revenue and they just won the Superbowl so that should swell. We should all weep for the Packers. A team with 70,000 people on the waiting list for season tickets. I think it’s worth noting that the Packers have never been amongst the more profitable of the NFL teams. In the early oughts they even lost money a few years, the Wisconsin legislature helped bail them out by funding stadium renovations (which helped get them where they are today with the debt). They don’t have an owner that feels that though, their shareholders don’t even collected dividends. They also have a team fund of about 127 mil just sitting untouched collecting interest.

      That’s the owners’ only argument too, and while yes it does represent a troubling trend there needs to be a little more support before you can jump to the conclusion that every team is in the same situation, especially when the league just reported record profits. If they made this same case in two years after the CBA expired naturally it would hold a lot more weight. But as it stands now the Packers should be fine and there would be no lock-out right now if there weren’t an opt out a few years ago.

      ‘We made a bad deal’ is not something you’d expect 31 rich businessmen to say. But I doubt the publicly-traded Packers’ well-being was of chief concern during the last deal either. More likely this is 31 rich businessmen being opportunistic. If it were this much of an issue there would be a few more signs than some troubling trends in the Packers financial report.

  • BuccoBill

    The timing was a factor in the owners decision to excersize their escape clause. The majority of people are siding with the owners as public sector unions bankrupt our country, counting on the fact that public opinion will be on thier side because of that. Don’t fool yourself, the unions in this country are real good at putting on a show but the majority of Americans feel like the unions have become the very corruption that they once fought against, and the owners are banking on that. JMHO

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  • ToddO

    You capitalized the word “ONLY”…..uhhhh….no offense but if that was an attempt at sarcasm, it was awful. Anyone with half a business brain will tell you that a $9.8 mill operating profit out a ten billion dollar pool is nonsense and something is broke. You are dwelling on the owners OPTING OUT….not breaking….opting out. A clause was included that allowed for this. They didn’t break a thing. Didn’t the players sign the same agreement with the owners opt out clause? YES!!!! Everyone involved KNEW that it was possible to opt out. You are acting like it was some big surprise and that they aren’t honoring it when there were definite possibilities all along it could happen. If you were in a bad contract and had an escape clause, you’d take it too!!!!

    Again, you didn’t comment on rising costs only coming out of the owners dwindling slice of the pie.

    And isn;t itr the american way….if they want to make 15% profits instead of 10% or less…who am I to say otherwise? That’s their right. The players are only employees….nothing more. They were lucky to get the deal they did. Why are 78% of retired players either bankrupt or in sever financial distress? Maybe they should have taken actual classes in college. In the real world? The overpaid get fired and replaced with cheaper younger labor.

    Bring back Reagan and let’s end this thing….owners own and players play.

    • Patrik Nohe

      Wow I would never want to work for you. I said right in the article, hide behind contractual semantics all you want to, yeah the owners had a clause. But factually, the Packers are still more profitable under this CBA than they were under the last one. Look it up. The Packers are a bad a business model. They’ve never historically been a profitable team but they also have one way of raising funds that literally no other team has. They can make a stock offering as they have done four times in their history and raise funds that way. It’s not as if they’re diluting their ownership or anything because no one of their shareholders make money. They can literally just sell dead stock at 200 dollars per pop and will line up to buy it just as they have done in the past. Once again, offering evidence of one team’s economic situation and then implying that all teams are in the same boat despite what the NFL just did as a whole is not a strong argument. It’s actually, technically, an argumentative fallacy.

      And don’t lecture me about the American way being owners squeezing employees to maximize profits. That’s incredibly cynical. The players are supposed to be “partners” under the league model. Both sides have used that empty rhetoric to discuss a partnership. They’ve gone to pain-staking lengths to present the league as if its a partnership. But it’s not a partnership, it’s a sham. And as you just argued, if someone just opted out of a contract that was still profiting both parties YOU would look for legal recourse before you gave anything back. You can give the owners a break for doing what was within their rights despite the ethics of it, but the players don’t receive the same courtesy? They get no recourse they just need to shut up and take it because they’re so lucky?

      And what a statement to say “maybe they should have read a book in college.” Are you implying the ivy-league lawyers the NFLPA hires aren’t educated? Are you implying Ricky Williams is in there negotiating contracts? How did these uneducated players get such a good deal the last time?

      And the overpaid DO NOT always get fired and replaced with cheap labor. That is what happens in the middle class. But I’m pretty confident there weren’t too many high priced execs on Wall Street being replaced with cheaper alternatives, even with all the problems they’ve had lately. Is that not the real world? And you should go back and revisit Reagan’s policies, I don’t think you’re totally accurate on that last point.

      • ToddO

        Let’s be real here Pat, I’ll wager any amount you want that the players end up giving back some money in the end. Then I’ll wager that not one single player leaves or quits because of it. Why? Deep down they know they are making hand over fist. When we had to roll back commissions at my old job….it was around a 7-8% cut back….guess what? Not one single employee left. Why? They knew that still had it good but the company wasn’t making enough money. No one said “prove it”. They dealt and moved on. This is REAL life.

        Squeezing? LOL!!!! You call a $4.8 BILLION DOLLAR POOL SQUEEZING???? BUWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!! How anyone would side with the players is beyond me. YOU sir are in a huge minority right now. Polls everywhere back that up. You keep crying about all these profits….show me. And why do you refuse to comment on the owners growing costs and expenses ONLY coming out of there slice of the pie????? This is the third time I am asking you about. WHy should the players be completely sheltered from all costs and increased costs????? I use GB because they have transparency and a rabid fanbase. They sell a ton of merchandise/concessions/tix/etc. You dismiss it almsot as an anomaly but I’d wager AGAIN that its more the norm than not. Yes, you have a select few making money but as a whole, they aren’t doing as well as you claim.

        If the contract was so great to the owners why would they opt out? Because its so profitable???? In the words of ESPN….COME ON MAN……

        I was implying if it wasn’t for football, a large % of the NFLPA would be doing something much different. Instead of counting their blessings, they have this huge sense of enititlement. Almost like the league is THEM, players are replaced every single year….let me ask you a very simple question….when Brady and Manning leave the game is the NFL going to close up shop? Why? B/c of the game…..people watch the game. Stars make it more interesting but let’s be real again for a sec….those fans in GB or DC or Dallas will go regardless. Many fans are fans of the team, of the game…new stars will emerge.

        Last but not least, not sure what country you live in but companies trimmed the fat everywhere over the few years. Middle class? I do not consider people making $100,000-$150,000 middle class. You may mean middle managers/execs/vps but hardly middle class. I was specifically talking about Reagan replacing all the Air Traffic Controllers…he broke them in one fell swoop.

        Bottom line are you honestly going to sit here and say the players can’t make do with $4 billion instead of $5 billion? Seriously?

        • Patrik Nohe

          Todd, you aren’t actually listening to any of the concessions I made in the article. I said that yes the players are at fault, yes in an earlier comment I mentioned player costs are rising and it will need to eventually be addressed. And I agree, money will end up being given back. I never said the players aren’t going to have to take less next deal. I’ve written entire articles on that. I just said they were within their rights to go to the courts and I don’t think they should be faulted for it. My point is just it’s difficult to say the owners were within their rights to opt out, but the players didn’t have the right to do anything about it. They both had different tactics at their disposal, so why is one at fault for taking advantage of that and the other is well within their rights?

          I haven’t seen nearly as many people come down on the owners for financially planning a lock-out strategy that would bring 4.5 bil in TV revenues and sustain the league for a year, even without football. But the fact the players were always going to go to the courts is a huge issue.

          This article wasn’t intended to say the players are right. In fact it says like five times both sides are wrong and deserve some blame. The point was this isn’t all or even mostly the players fault. This has a lot more to do with the owners than public perception seems to admit right now.

          And as for 100,000-150,000 not being middle class, based on what? The way the US government taxes (and yes I am from America, click my bio and you’ll see I’m from Florida) any family making 250k or less is middle class. And while a lot of companies trimmed fat, was that fat trimmed at the lower levels of the company or did it come out of the big executive salaries at the top end? I’ve been laid off a few times in the past couple years. Believe me, I get it.

          As I said in the article, the players also deserve fault. I never said, don’t blame the players. I just said don’t side with the owners. That’s a point I maintain. Fans don’t owe the owners a single thing, they don’t owe the players a single thing either, but especially not the owners. And both sides need to realize without the fans, they don’t even have business interests to hurt in the first place. I’m not trying to fight with you, I honestly appreciate the discussion. Hope you’re not getting heated, I’m just enjoying the debate.

  • Patrik Nohe

    And like I said from the outset, the players aren’t in any way free of blame. They’re a big part of why the league is locked out. But why would any fan side with an NFL owner? Even if you blame both, the owners are just as caustic, if not more so. Let’s not make them out to be the good guys. They did negotiate and save so they could weather a full season without football and pressure the players more. None of that, not one small bit was done for the fans.

    • ToddO

      Not at all….was going to say the same to you….I have one of those motivational pics with ‘Passion’ on it. Sometimes I can’t help myself. I completely understand the players don’t want to give up a thing. Unfortunately, I think they know they got too much last time. Gene Upshaw said on his death bed to never ever give a thing back. He knew that as revenues increased that 2/3′s of the pie would also skyrocket. I guess having been in management I find it hard to side with labor. My mother is a union rep and would probably kill me but I still believe that the owners have every right to make as much as they can(the players too) but in the end….if they want 15% margins….well, that’s their prerogative. That’s why they are the boss and everyone works for them. If the players do not like it….retire or go elsewhere. That partnership thing was bad from the start….no one gives their partners 2/3 of the pie. Those players are replaceable….they are a commodity. Their hubris disgusts me. Unions have outlived their purpose and single handedly destroyed Detroit and the domestic car industry. Some dude with a HS diploma making $60/hr to install windshield wipers was INSANE and unsustainable. The players making 59.6% of all revenues moving forward was unsustainable.

      I enjoy a good debate. Thank you for the outlet and return volleys. Have a good one…..