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Labor lockout likely, NFL players union boss says
Labor lockout likely, NFL players union boss says
BY JIM THOMAS
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. ó After months of relative quiet on the NFL labor front, the gloves are off.
DeMaurice Smith, who replaced the late Gene Upshaw as executive director of the NFL Players Association, told reporters Thursday that NFL owners have asked the players to take an 18 percent pay cut in the next collective bargaining agreement.
According to Smith, the players receive about 59 percent of what's called total football revenue. The league's proposal, he said, would reduce the players' share to 41 percent. Per player, that would amount to an average pay cut of $340,000, according to Smith's math.
"Last year, the National Football League generated about $8 billion in total revenue," Smith said. "Forbes magazine estimated that average per team profit was $31 million."
If the players accepted that pay cut, the owners would generate another $1 billion in profit for the teams, Smith claimed.
"My question is why?" he said. "If there is something to do to change this deal because teams are not profitable, tell us. If there is something out there that shows that these team's profit margins are off by even 1 percent, tell (us). ... But I'm still waiting for that answer."
Which was Smith's way of saying that while providing information on revenue, the league has never provided information on profit margin to the players union.
The NFL has not had a work stoppage, via strike or lockout, since 1987. But Smith said that a work stoppage in 2011, in the form of a player lockout by owners, is probable.
Smith said he feels this way because of what he called steps the league has taken to prepare for a lockout since 2007. Among them:
ó Imposing "lockout clauses" in the contracts of coaches and executives that give clubs the right to reduce compensation in the event of a lockout.
ó Retaining labor relations attorney Bob Batterman, who the NFLPA said is "widely credited" for orchestrating the 2004-2005 lockout in the National Hockey League.
ó Voting unanimously in May 2008 to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement two years early (or in March 2011).
ó Signing new broadcasting deals with the Fox and CBS television networks, as well as renewing its deal with DirecTV as the NFL's exclusive satellite carrier. Those deals guarantee payment to the league even if there is a 2011 lockout, which Smith called "$5 billion dollars" of lockout insurance.
"Has any one of the prior deals included $5 billion to not play football?" Smith said. "The answer's no. When you look at every step that has occurred since 2007 is it more of a preparation to play football? Or more of a preparation to not play football?"
Smith also said if the 2010 league year, which begins March 5, indeed is an uncapped year it would be "virtually impossible" to go back to a salary cap system.
Thursday's annual NFLPA Super Bowl press conference was as much a position statement by the union as a question-and-answer session. The NFLPA handed out information sheets to the media that included a listing of what it called "the league's steps to prepare for a lockout," as well as a look at the success of the league.
The league has its chance to counter Smith's claims today at Commissioner Roger Goodell's annual state of the NFL press conference.
Smith was joined on a stage Thursday by several current and former NFL players, including NFLPA president Kevin Mawae, the center for the Tennessee Titans, and former Detroit Lions great, running back Barry Sanders.
"What we do not understand and what we cannot give in to is how a business that makes over $8 billion, an average of $31 million a team, can look their employees in the face and say take an 18 percent pay cut without any justification for doing so," Mawae said. "It'll be such a shame for us not to have this game in 2011 because we can't find common ground on how the thing should be played out."
Also seated on stage was former St. Louis Rams offensive guard Dwayne "The Road Grader" White, who is president of the South Florida chapter of the NFLPA and lives near Fort Lauderdale.
In the audience were two former members of the Rams' 1999 season Super Bowl championship squad: defensive end Kevin Carter and tight end Ernie Conwell.
Carter, who has "unofficially" retired, is on the NFLPA executive committee. Conwell, retired and living in Nashville, is regional director of the NFLPA.
"We're doing our best to get something done," Conwell said. "Any time you're dealing with labor negotiations, there's always concern about the two sides coming together and finding the happy medium somewhere.
"We're confident that we can get something done with (the owners), and I think they are as well. But we're also preparing for a worst-case scenario, which you just have to do."
Along those lines, Conwell has been traveling to the various college all-star games, including last week's Senior Bowl, informing the potential 2010 NFL rookies about the current labor situation. That includes, Conwell said, informing them that "it could be one-and-done" ó meaning a season of football in 2010 followed by a lockout in 2011
Re: Labor lockout likely, NFL players union boss says
I think we all agree that most of the professional athletes are overpaid. Whether it be football, baseball, basketball, hockey, golf..etc..etc.. Even with that in mind how can the owners push for a paycut and offer nothing in return. I could understand if the owners were giving up some of their money as well in an attempt to lower tickets prices, concessions, parking and anything else so that the average fan could afford to take his family to a game or maybe even 2 or 3 games. Or how about an inhanced retirement plan for the players?
This just seems crazy to me and I don't blame the "over" paid players for balking at this.
Re: Labor lockout likely, NFL players union boss saysI could understand if the owners were giving up some of their money as well in an attempt to lower tickets prices, concessions, parking and anything else so that the average fan could afford to take his family to a game or maybe even 2 or 3 games.
I agree with you on that statement. I donít know what the owners are making but itís hard for me to believe in this economy that the owners are not taking some economic hits, even if they are not trying to help the fans. A lot of people have taken economic hits. I work in a very secure job but was ask to take a pay cut its hard on everyone sorry I donít feel for the players.
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