I Side With The Owners


The NFL and the NFLPA have agreed to a 7 day marathon of mediation in order to solve the labor dispute (more on this later today).  This in an effort to avoid a work stoppage that is growing closer by the minute.  The NFL Combine starts next week and the week after is the March 4th deadline for a new CBA.  Without it, no football outside of the draft in April until one gets done.  No trades, no free agency, no undrafted rookie signings.  Nothing.  7 days is a good step and many fans believe that if both sides locked themselves down, they could get something done.

I’m not so sure.  While I think it’s a foot in the right direction, these two sides need leaps.  I also have to wonder if any part of this is simply to garner more fan support for one side or the other.  Both sides do want to get this deal done but they also both want to win the PR battle as well.  Yesterday we threw up a poll question that was very simple.  Do you side with the owners?  Or do you side with the players?  No in between, no “I side with the fans” votes here.

65% 0f the over 200 votes sided with the owners.  I side with the owners as well and here is why.

The NFL brings in around 9 billion dollars a year with almost 5 billion being handed out to the players in some fashion.  The remaining 4 billion is split among the owners of all 32 teams.  Which is why there are serious issues among the owners regarding revenue sharing.  Consider being in Stephen Ross’ shoes and having to share portions of what he makes off the team with one of the low market teams like Jacksonville who really does nothing to improve their situation.  Is that fair?  No, but it is part of being in elite company.

The players bare no financial risk to success or failure and while the player may feel the crunch in a down economy, a higher tax bracket, and a slew of other things, in order to keep their jobs they need to stay healthy (not an easy task) and stay out of trouble (something many seldom do).  I find it refreshing that the NFL takes a stubborn approach to doling out fines for bad behavior.  Considering that in the real work world, fines are not handed down for using drugs or beating up on the wife.  Jail and being fired is.  So in my opinion, I think it’s completely fair that the players are asked to maintain their image.

The players received a very good deal in the last CBA and they have openly admitted to it, yet they don’t want to take a lot of that pie away.  In fact, they want the owners to open up their books so they can see exactly what the NFL is bringing in.  Would your employee open up theirs for you?  Of course not.  Nor would they in any other sport or business.  Frankly it’s need to know and while we would all like to know how much we are getting screwed in the workforce, we bare no liability for the company itself.

Consider the recent economic woes of the country.  As mentioned above, in their jobs, the players felt no pain of that.  They still received their checks despite the lower gate receipts and concession receipts at the games.  The owners must bare that burden when the outside world begins to cut back on frivolous spending or entertainment.  The same can be said about stadium renovations, locker-room improvements, and so on.

In Miami, over the last couple of years, the Dolphins began working on changes to the teams training facility.  One of those changes came in the form of a redesign and expansion of the team dining hall.  Gone were the roll-a-way extension curtains to keep out the elements and in their place were sliding doors that allowed the players to look out over the practice field.  Do you think the players paid for that?  Of course not.  Do you think the owner gets any return in that?  Not one bit.

That is something they did for the players.  A courtesy to make their much spent time at the facility a little more comfortable.  But that count in that 4 billion the players get.

Another issue I have with players is accessibility.  Some player have an open door, they will shake your hand, sign an autograph, talk to you like they knew you all their life and think nothing of it.  Vontae’ Davis reminds me of this type of player.  Two years ago I ran into him in an elevator at the team hotel, he couldn’t swipe  his key card because his hands were full and he held the key in his mouth.  I took it for him and swiped it.  We chatted all the way up.  Not about the game, but about nothing.  Just talk.  He started it.  Very personable.  There are a lot of players like that.

There are others who will not give you the time of day or even bother giving you a reason as to why.  Three years ago I tried to get a player from another team to talk to me about the state of the NFL and his future.  He declined through an Email that simply said, “I don’t want to do your interview”.  No thanks but no thanks or anything like that.  About 6 months later, I got an Email from one of his reps asking if I wanted to do an interview with him because he had just become a product endorser and wanted to do this promo tied in with the interview.

I politely declined.

I have not had the same issues with the 6 NFL owners I have met.   Wayne Huizenga by far is my absolute favorite.  I have met him on three separate occasions and not one time was he put out by talking to you for a minute.  Once even having his golf cart driver stop to shake my hand and exchange a few words of pleasantry.  The other owners were also very similarly grateful and accessible.  I can’t simply call their offices and say “I want to do an interview with…???” but if I catch them at the right time, as others have, they would obilige.

Recently I contacted a member of the Miami Dolphins to conduct an interview, the players rep said that I needed to go through the Dolphins, but during the off-season, Harvey Greene doesn’t play the middle man and refers you to the agent.  I spoke to the agent again after he told me that his client likely wouldn’t do it and was Emailed that yes, in fact, “as I expected”, he declined to do your interview.

There is a serious disconnect within the NFL structure.  The players want more or at least not less, and the owners want more without giving up more.  Yet when it is all said and done, you can cut 53 players off of every roster, every Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Brandon Marshall, and Drew Brees and you will find 4 others to take their place.  They may not be as talented, but the talent levels would all be even nonetheless.  It wouldn’t be pretty but it would be football.  How do you know this is true?  Because every Friday night and every Saturday, millions of fans will watch players play that will never make it to the NFL.

For me, I simply can’t take up the side of the player when they invest nothing in winning or losing.  Sure, their bodies get beaten down every year and they walk with limps and canes and have a hard time rolling out of bed every morning.  But so do fireman.  So do policeman.  So do paramedics, construction workers, and every soldier that protects this country.

I simply don’t buy the whining anymore.  At least the owners take a risk.