NFLPA Machinations At Green Bay and Welcoming the Lockout

October 6, 2010 § 1 Comment

Hadn’t heard about this until today:

The NFLPA leader was in Green Bay at a tailgate style luncheon with Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, where the two asked fans to support the players as a showdown looms between the owners and the NFLPA.  Smith referred to a recent report in the Sports Business Journal that said the NFL is requesting that banks who lend money to teams extend the grace periods for loan defaults through the end next season should a lockout occur.  Smith said that move, in conjunction with language in NFL television contracts calling for partial payment to the league even if there is no football, indicates to him that owners are serious about a labor stoppage.

DeMaurice Smith is not a fool. He knows that, at least in the US, the overwhelming attitude of the fan is “screw organized labor, let’s see some sport!” Any and every labor stoppage has seen the fan (often fomented by management-fueled media) near-unanimously hold the players in contempt. So he’s doing the savvy thing and starting to get the players and personalities interacting with fans, reminding the average consumer that any lockout will come from team owners holding out for more money. I don’t think he’s being aggressive enough: the NFL has some entertaining players who have Twitter accounts and TV shows that could do a lot to say: you know and like me, so trust me when I say that the NFLPA is right in the CBA discussions. Leverage the social medias, I say!

Also in the story is news that the Packers have given Aaron Rodgers, their rep, authority to decertify the NFLPA if need be. Decertification, if it happens, opens up the players to sue the NFL over anti-trust, an act that no owner wants to see. We’ll see how this turns out, but from this viewer’s angle, it seems all but assured that there ain’t gonna be no NFL next year.

And, frankly, I think this is a good thing. American athletes have had a long tradition of the worst union leadership of any profession. Donald Fehr, Billy Hunter, Gene Upshaw: all of them incompetent and weak. DeMaurice Smith appears to be intelligent and aggressive. He’s going to present the first threat to all US sports of a strong and successful and (hopefully) unified athletes. In what might be a first, Smith’s been telling players to put away some of their money for the lockout, a wise move. The average player’s sense of the arrangement is vastly improved from the previous generation. Instead of having a compromised class traitor like Upshaw leading the way, the NFLPA has a former U.S. Attorney who teaches classes on trial advocacy.

And furthermore, the owners’ cry of poverty is one of the bullshittiest sounds in Bullshitburg. All the teams are making money. Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in the late 80’s for less than $100m and their now valued at over $1.8 billion. My Packers’ total assets have doubled in the past decade, check their own statements. Hell, their revenue from NFL properties multiplied by a factor of 10 over those 10 years, from $4m to $45m. The Packers, by dint of their arrangement (publicly owned) are forced to show their books. Every other team? Mum. I’d be happy to be proven wrong, but until the owners are willing to have third-party assessment of their numbers the line remains: every owner in the NFL is making huge amounts of money off the blood, sweat and brain injuries of its players, and the NFLPA has the right to stand up for itself and refuse to be bullied around.

So count at least one fan who is happy to see the players grow some spine. I want my football, of course, but I also want justice.

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