How Is This Becoming So One-Sided?

No one side deserves all the blame, but one side deserves more.
No one side deserves all the blame, but one side deserves more. /
Both sides deserve blame, but one side deserves more.
Both sides deserve blame, but one side deserves more. /

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?
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.