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Choose a Side in the NFL Labor Dispute

Now that the two sides of NFL Labor have finished playing a $9 billion game of chicken and gone the scorched earth route, fans are rapidly piling into each camp. According to the League, the players always intended to decertify. According to the players, the League always intended to lock the players out. The official site of the NFL on this subject is NFL Labor. I would highly suggest reading its Summary of NFL proposal to NFLPA. On the flip side, the "former NFLPA's" spin site is NFL Lockout. Over there you should read the list of Issues Preventing A New NFL CBA From Being Reached.

Both sides are talking about a lot of the same points: rookie pay reform, player safety, pensions, retiree benefits, medical plans, etc (the 18 game season seems to be a bit of a non sequiter at this point). The reality is, they largely agree on such things and the differences are all about the money. By the player's numbers, the money is currently split about a 50/50 owing to a 60/40 split of revenues after a $1 billion credit to the owners for things such as stadium building. It seems the owners want another extra $1 billion dollar credit owing to 'financial hardship'; the players want proof of this financial hardship, and the owners are simply not willing to disclose their numbers (without a 3rd party anyway). Here's an interesting bit from former Charger/Viking free agent LB Ben Leber, given to Darren Smith on XX 1090 on the day of decertification:

All along we've felt like it's been a fair deal. You know 32 owners getting 50% of the pie and 1900 players getting the other 50%. I think if you're one of the 32 you're actually getting a pretty good deal. You know, it is kind of shocking that it seems like a good deal for both parties and we've always asked if you don't feel like you're making enough money than show us why and they continually say no, it's none of our business.

I think this statement omits the huge costs (and risk!) that the owners incur (and assume) on their half of the ledger. They have to maintain facilities, keep up huge non-player payrolls, and make payments on various forms of stadium upkeep. The players simply pay their income tax and hit the gym (maybe while they accumulate some brain damage?).

The US Chamber of Commerce had this to say on the player's union decertifying:

We are troubled by the decision of the NFL Players to decertify as a union so that they may litigate under the antitrust laws, with the prospect that once the litigation is over they will again claim they are a union. Gaming the labor laws and the antitrust laws offers a potentially disastrous model for labor-management relations in this country and raises serious questions of labor policy.

This angle resonates with me. If you read articles or hear interviews with player reps, you'll hear a lot of legal reasons why they had to take this route (mostly to do with avoiding a 6 month court delay); but it really is maneuvering by a group of players that will go right back to being a union once the matter is settled.

The local angle ownership revelations came from Kevin Acee this past weekend, where Chargers President Dean Spanos said:

"We’re operating and will continue to operate as if there is going to be a season," Spanos said. "I can’t predict exactly when, but I do believe there is going to be a deal. Unfortunately, it could have been done."


"They elected to stop the process, not us," Spanos said. "…The last thing any of us want is to shut our businesses down. It does no one any good."

"It was very clear to me in the last 17 days, and now in retrospect going back two years, their ultimate goal was to litigate," Spanos said. "There was never an intention to get a deal done".

Today, Chargers Center Nick Hardwick spoke to Darren Smith of XX 1090. Nick was the San Diego Player Representative for the NFLPA up until de-certification. He now serves as the unofficial "information disseminator" between San Diego players and the class action lawsuit player representation. The most interesting tid bit from this interview for me was that the Chargers players are currently under COBRA for their health care due to the lockout! Nick has a lot of faith in his player leadership:

"I know we elected the right guys, and put them in the right position to make the decision for the whole.. we just have to trust that their going to do the best that hey can and we're sure they're going to."

"I'm happy with the leadership that we've got. I think it's hard to not overreact sometimes, or to get emotional about it because everyone's careers are at stake, there's a lot riding and there's a lot of guys in their fifth or sixth years that we have to be sympathetic to at this time, and there's just a lot going on and for me to think that I've got any answers would be arrogant and ridiculous..."

Lastly, I have a theory that political inclinations have a lot to do with initial fan reactions. It's an age old axiom that a Republican would tend to favor business, while a Democrat will usually side with labor. We're seeing this play out in Wisconson. I would really like to hear in the comments from people who lean left politically and favor the owners, as well as conservative types that think the players are more justified. (Editor's Note: Keep this civil and contained to football, or the wrath of John and Wade will be wrought!) John says it's more of an informed vs uninformed fan dichotomy, but I can't figure out what the polarity on that school of thought is. So who do you side with in the early going?