Now that the dust has finally settled on the tense Steelers v. Packers Super Bowl match-up, football fans across the country are forced to contemplate the possibility that the Packers win could be the last NFL game to air in quite some time. League owners have been sparring with players over labor and payment issues that, if remain unresolved, could lead to a player lockout and the cancellation of the 2011 football season. Whose side are you on?
At the heart of the issue is a dispute between League owners and the players’ union, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), over the distribution of League revenue. The owners want to reduce the player’s share of the revenue by 18 percent, or around $1 billion dollars, while also lengthening the season to 18 games.
While some might dismiss the potential lockout as billionaires battling millionaires for a bigger piece of the pie, there are serious labor and consumer issues at play. While most fans would dread a fall season devoid of football, team owners could actually stand to profit by effectively cancelling the 2011 season. The League has secured television deals that will create $4.5 billion dollars in revenue whether a single game is played or not, which, coupled with the elimination of $4.4 billion dollars in player salaries, would make a season without games financially profitable for owners, while leaving players out in the cold.
According to the NFLPA-sponsored site, NFLLockout.com, canceling the 2011 season would have severe consequences for local economies: each NFL city would lose $160 million in revenue, affecting more than 115,000 jobs across the country. From a labor standpoint, NFL owners’ desires to increase the number of in-season games (and therefore the risk of player injury) while simultaneously decreasing player salaries is unacceptable. Not since the early 1980’s has there been a season where the players’ shares of the revenue was as low as the League ownership is currently seeking. The NFL has also stated that it will not pay active player healthcare costs, despite the fact that the average player’s career is a mere 3.6 years, and it takes 3 accredited years to get just 5 years of post-career healthcare. (And not to mention the negative long-term health consequences many NFL players can expect to face.)
From a consumer standpoint, fans who have paid top dollar for personal seat licenses and season tickets are angered that the League would consider implementing a lockout when the NFL is as popular as ever; both conference championship games drew more than 50 million viewers. And if the owners succeed in locking out players and increasing revenues, will corporate America take note and attempt similar roll-backs in employee wages?
Fortunately, there's something concerned consumers can to do help. Sign the players’ petition demanding that the NFL not cancel next season. And check out this video, a new ad from the NFLPA that forecasts the impact of a lockout on players, workers, and fans.