For a while this week, it looked as though America’s most popular sport was in deep trouble. Unless a deal is worked out by March 11th at 11:59pm, the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the National Football League (NFL) and the National Football Players Association (NFLPA, also referred to as the “Union”) will expire. In a dramatic turn, the NFL Owners (“Owners”) agreed to a seven (7) day extension of the CBA, seemingly to work out a long-term agreement with the Union. If negotiations don’t go forward as planned, both sides will hunker down and prepare for a work stoppage.
If negotiations take a turn for the worse, this battle will be played out via the court system. Earlier this week, U.S. District Court Judge David Doty ruled that the Owners may not set aside $4B in unearned revenue from television contracts to use as a “cushion” during a possible work stoppage. This ruling was quite a blow to the Owners, but, was likely expected. During the negotiations of the last labor agreement, Judge Doty ruled in favor of the NFLPA on many counts, leading to today’s current iteration of the CBA. The Owners seem to understand that if the CBA expires and the case goes before Judge Doty, the Union will likely prevail.
If negotiations fail, the NFLPA will likely take a step similar to what previous NFLPA head Gene Upshaw utilized during his tenure - decertify the Union, prior to the CBA expiration. If this happens, the Union will cease to exist, temporarily, and each player is on his own. Most importantly, the Union will sue the Owners for a violation of federal antitrust laws, stating that the Owners are using tactics to unreasonably restrain trade. In this case, to restrain the players from playing football. A bold, but, effective move. In return, the NFL will most likely “lockout” the players from team facilities and put their highly paid attorneys to work.
So, what’s all the hubbub? There are several issues where the two sides are at odds including the Rookie Wage Scale, expansion of the regular season from 16 to 18 games, benefits for retired players, and $9B in revenue sharing. Yes, I said they are squabbling over 9 Billion dollars. Boy, would I like to be part of that squabble. Nonetheless, the NFL as we know it may go away for a little while unless both sides realize that they have a goldmine at their fingertips. I’m sure most fans believe that there has to be a way that this issue can be resolved quickly so that a full season of football comes our way in September. Let’s see how the next week plays out.