With the Super Bowl now firmly in the rear view mirror most Kansas City Chiefs fans find themselves suffering from football withdraw. Most fans try to fill that gaping hole with the usual off season talk. Fans debate what their team needs are and make up wish lists for both the draft and free agency. However, this offseason even those efforts leave one feeling a little empty. The main reason for this is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations and looming lockout are hanging over the NFL off season like a giant black storm cloud.
Now most fans could care less about the CBA itself. All they want is football. The overall view is that this is billionaires arguing with millionaires over a couple percentage points here and there. When you put it in those terms, who could blame someone for not caring about either side and taking the attitude of “Just play football!”. That was my initial reaction. However, the more I listen to the details and the more information that comes out, I am changing my mind. I find myself very much on one side of the dispute.
I’ll take sides and explain why after the break.
Let me start by saying that I am not some kind of CBA expert. I didn’t spend hours pouring over the current CBA and reading transcripts from negotiations. This is all just my opinion based on the information that is out there in the mainstream media. So if after my little rant is over you feel that I’ve got it all wrong I’ll be more then willing to listen to your argument. My feeling is now that the owners are 100% at fault for this situation and I am fully behind the players association (NFLPA).
Let me start by saying that I don’t think these negotiations are about 18 games schedules, rookie wage scales, etc. Those are just different angles the owners are raising in the media to try and deflect from the real issue, they want more money. Not a little bit more, they want a sizable shift in the current revenue. The more I hear the more I think that this isn’t about coming to a deal that both sides can live with. I think the owners are out to “break” the NFLPA and we won’t have football again until the owners feel that they have “won” the negotiations.
Why do I feel this way? Let’s start with how we got to the current negotiations.
Over the last few months a couple key owners have let slip in the media that they were not happy at all with the last CBA. Basically it now appears clear that many owners feel that they signed a bad deal back then. They have since maneuvered themselves to fix this situation. Before they even began to talk of opting out of the current CBA they built themselves a “war fund” that they could live off of if they had to have a lockout and miss football games. They negotiated the current TV contract (which is where the biggest piece of the NFL pie comes from) so that the owners would still get paid even if there were no football games to televise. Was this just luck? No way. The owners had already decided behind closed doors that they would opt out of the current deal and once that television deal was struck the balance of power was fully in their corner.
Which brings me to my next point, the current CBA did not just expire on its own. It is expiring because the owners opted out of it. My initial thought was that, like everything else, the NFL is a business. The bottom line is making money and if the owners aren’t making money they have a right to run their business in a way that is profitable. The major problem I have though is that the owners have thus far refused to make available their “books”. If this current deal is so bad and they aren’t making good money why in the world wouldn’t they be jumping at the chance to prove their point? The answer is that they are making plenty of money as is. But here’s the thing about billionaires, they didn’t get to be billionaires by just being content to make “some” money. They got that rich because they obsessed over fighting for every possible dollar that they could get their hands on. I believe that the owners see that television contract as their insurance policy that will allow them to “break” the NFLPA even if it means missing games. The bottom line is money and if they think players will cave when they stop getting paychecks and sign a deal that greatly favors the owners, then that will make them more money over time then they will lose on one lost or shortened season.
The number one thing the owners are asking for is not an 18 game season or a rookie wage scale. It’s $1,000,000,000.00. That’s a lot of zeros, huh? In the current system the owners get one billion dollars off the top of all income before revenues are split with the players. The owners want to double that to 2 billion. Trust me; if the players came in tomorrow and agreed to that I’m guessing the owners would suddenly seem very flexible with the 18 games and rookie wage scale. So what does that extra billion dollars mean for the teams? That averages out to about 31 million dollars per team. Currently 57% of the post cut revenue goes to players salaries. So 57% of 31 million is about 17.7 million less per team in salary per season. That’s a pretty big pay cut for the most popular and profitable sport in the country. You add that to the fact that the owners want two more games from the players after cutting league wide salaries by over 560 million dollars. This is just flat out greed.
The owners are hoping that like in past sports strikes/lockouts the public won’t take a side. They love the “Who cares, its millionaires arguing with billionaires” stance that many have. They are hoping that all people think of are the Peyton Mannings of the world that already have more money then they could spend in a lifetime. They don’t want you thinking of those league minimum lineman and line backers that only last long enough in the league to ensure that they have knee, back, and head pain for the rest of their life. Now don’t get me wrong, they chose that life knowing it would take a toll and yes league minimum is still more then most of us will ever make. I would still rather “that guy” who is actually out there on the filed got the extra sliver of the pie then some owner that just sits in a suite and watches his cash come in.
I’m usually known for my optimism, but if you haven’t noticed this week I don’t have a lot of it. Is there any hope? To be honest, it doesn’t look very good right now. Yahoo had a front page story on how Carolina owner Jerry Richardson was belittling players like Peyton Manning and Drew Brees at the last negotiations. According to one source Richardson at one point asked Manning “Do I need to help you read a revenue chart son?” That doesn’t sound like an owner that has any intention of coming to an agreement. That sounds like someone who knows he has the upper hand so he doesn’t give a damn about what the other side wants or thinks. If all the owners are loyal to the position and attitude of owners like Richardson and Jerry Jones we will only have football when the players cave and give the owners their “victory”. That won’t happen until several games are missed and players start to turn on the union because they need a paycheck. If the owners do refuse to negotiate and push things to that point I will have to think long and hard about whether or not I want to give the NFL any more of my hard earned dollars. I will always root for the Chiefs and watch every snap of every game. However, the players get the same money if the stadiums are full or not. The owners don’t. Do I want my Chiefs to play in front of a full crowd? Of course, but it will be a real battle for me to spend the little bit of spare income my family has on a ticket, parking, concessions, etc. after witnessing this display of greed.
What makes it worse for me is that this is all happening at a time when the country needs its national pastime (sorry baseball, its not you anymore). The down economy has a lot of people struggling and the NFL is an outlet that brings a few hours of joy and entertainment to people who may not have a lot else right now. To take that away from those people so that they can go from making a lot of money to making tons of money makes me sick.
So there’s no hope at all?
Well, there are two possible scenarios where everything works out in my mind. First, the owners are giving the appearance of being greedy jerks who don’t care about missing games because of their TV contract just to gain an upper hand in negotiating and eventually will strike a deal before any serous time is missed. In this scenario we would have to assume that the owners really don’t want a full extra billion off the top and will eventually be willing to negotiate. That’s not the vibe I’m getting from the Jerry Jones and Jerry Richardson’s out there.
My second possible hope is that there are owners out there that care enough about the game itself and its fans to break ranks from the Jerry’s of the NFL to get something done. I don’t know a lot about Clark Hunt. I have however read and heard enough about his father Lamar Hunt to know that Lamar was not just in this for the money. This was not just a bottom line to him. I am hoping that Clark Hunt is the same way. I mean, anyone who is deeply dedicated to pro soccer in the USA clearly isn’t just a sports owner for the profit, right? My hope is that there are enough decent owners out there that will step forward when its gut check time. This may be a pipe dream, but there’s a little of that optimism I’m known for still here.
To close, I will say this. The really frustrating thing about this is that there isn’t much we as fans can do. Even if there is a lockout and we as fans decide to boycott games after they come back, that will be after the fact. It won’t help speed up the process any. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m giving the owners until June 1st to get something done. If there is no agreement in place by that time then my next weekly post here on AA will be an open letter to Clark Hunt. The letter will explain my thoughts and feelings about the situation and ask him to take action. Not only will I post the letter here, I will also actually mail the letter to 1 Arrowhead Drive and will also encourage the readers hear at AA to do the same.
Here’s to hoping it doesn’t come to that.
As usual, thanks for reading and GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!!!