The National Football League Players Association has warned its members that the 2011 NFL season may not happen. On Wednesday, NFLPA exec director DeMaurice Smith sent a letter to all players advising them that an ‘internal deadline’ for union and league to agree on a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) had come and gone. With no apparent movement on the labor front, the NFLPA is advising players to “protect yourself and your family” by getting their financial houses in order. In case of a lockout, Smith suggested players put their last three game checks of 2010 in the bank, rather than, say, stuffing them into strippers’ g-strings.
As news of Smith’s letter became public, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello called the move “disappointing and inexplicable, especially for fans,” Predictably, Aiello was also quick to hint that the lack of contract progress was entirely the fault of the NFLPA. “We hope this does not mean the union has abandoned negotiating in favor of decertifying and litigating. We are ready to meet and negotiate anytime and anywhere. But it takes sustained effort and shared commitment to reach an agreement. One side can’t do it alone.”
Under the terms of the existing CBA, the players get 59.6% of designated NFL revenues, but the owners are crying poor from having paid to erect all those new stadiums (or at least, for paying the portion of the tab that wasn’t covered by corporate welfare). As such, the NFLPA has put a ‘Lockout Watch’ clock on its home page, counting down the seconds until March 3, the expiration date of the current CBA.
Obviously, much of this is pure posturing, with each side trying to win the fight in the court of public opinion ahead of the real behind the scenes battle. But really, a pox on both their houses. The owners constantly drone on about fiscal restraint, then ritually embark on free agent signing sprees that make Michael Jackson’s shopping habits look downright frugal.
But neither side is really all that deserving of our sympathy. Given that the average salary of an NFL player in 2009 was $770k, it’s hard to believe that many of them would be living so hand-to-mouth that they couldn’t deal with a year on the dole. If they can’t, they need to get their financial houses in order even if there’s no work stoppage. Seriously, stop buying flash cars and bling and maybe invest in a few blue chip stocks. Do like November Niner John Dolan and actually listen to your accountant. Unlike football players, Dolan could still be earning a steady paycheck from his chosen profession well into his golden years, yet he’s still driving an eight-year-old Infiniti.
Meanwhile, how will sportsbooks react to the threat of a work stoppage? Should similar ‘put your money under the mattress’ warnings go out to call center employees? *sigh* Seriously, the sooner these two sides get their shit together the better, because as it stands, the only people benefitting from this uncertainty are washed up college players currently working as nightclub bouncers, hoping to pick up a little part time scab labor, like in 1987.