NFL Lockout: Owners Should Lock Out Other Owners Instead of Players

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Talks between NFL players and owners broke down today before a CBA agreement could be reached. At midnight, the owners will lock out the players and fans will wonder what the heck just happened.

I am far from a labor expert. I have no idea why billionaire owners and millionaire players can’t figure out how to divide up a gigantic pile of cash. I do my best to read about the issue from both sides and come to some sort of educated conclusion. In my opinion, the owners are in the wrong this time. Bill Simmons explains why much better than I could.

Amidst all sound bites, finger pointing and fan panic, there is one thing I still can’t figure out: Why are the owners locking out the players? Shouldn’t they lock out a couple of their fellow owners instead?

The core of the CBA issue is player expenses, right? Owners are saying player expenses are rising and can’t be sustained. The players say that is BS because the NFL is the most popular sport in America and basically prints money. Nobody knows for sure who is right because NFL teams refuse to open their books.

Don’t the owners share a good chunk of the blame for rising player costs? Instead of locking out the players, wouldn’t it make more sense to lock out Dan Snyder, Al Davis and Zygi Wilf for handing fat contracts to the likes of Albert Haynesworth, JaMarcus Russell and a broken-down Brett Favre? Isn’t the short-sightedness of some owners allowing player costs to get out of control? What am I missing here?

Obviously, owners can’t conspire to keep salaries at a certain level. That’s called collusion and it’s illegal. But nobody is holding a gun to owner’s heads and demanding that they overpay guys and allow salaries to reach a level that can’t be sustained.

Yes, owners have to shell out cash to players to be competitive. They also have to spend enough to meet the salary floor (except in 2010). But that still doesn’t excuse some of the outrageous bonuses paid and guarantees given to rookies and marginal veterans.

If player costs are supposedly making the entire league unsustainable despite massive public subsidies for stadiums, TV contracts worth billions and ticket prices that increase every year, maybe it’s time to step back and blame a few owners for helping drive up those player costs.

NBA owners get a lot of heat for the asinine contracts they hand out. I rarely hear an NFL owner taken to task for overpaying for marginal players and driving up costs for everyone else. Instead we pat them on the back for investing in the team instead of pocketing the cash for themselves.

Perhaps we should be grabbing them by the ear and making them sit in the corner to reflect on what they’ve done.

Yes, players costs are rising. Maybe it’s unsustainable, maybe it’s not. Either way, the owners need to shoulder their share of the blame.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • Taryn

    Like you Adam,I’m not a business wizard as some of the Owners… Al Davis,Dan Snyder,Zygi Wilf are in salary signings.Thank God.

    They have forced the NFLPA to call a bluff of the dead mans hand they are holding,which is their much valued Acct Books.

    This will go to the courts and the owners will sense a false victory as the NFLPA will not see the entire spreadsheet,but the courts will and the decision will only prove the Players right,that the Owners were overstating their deficit.

    Gained by the NFLPA at this table is a chip of extreme value at the next CBA game as the NFLPA goes all-in from the start and that’s a chip that may be misplayed as badly as the Owners now.

    I heard on the radio that the 8th Circuit Court will not push this case up the calender as there are cases that actually involve more important items such as job loss,which he said takes president over a game of football.To him I say,wake up and realize this is not 1980’s but 2011 and the number of job losses related to football and the revenue in the many avenues attached to football is staggering.

    In an already mentally anguished society due to job loss,financial downfalls and the even if more possible belittling of a middle class,I cannot see the Courts not taking swift action to reach a decision that will make Owners hang their heads some,Players hold theirs up some.

    Until then,I cannot help but feel,that I’m one of those little kids in the commercial,watching their playgrounds disappear.

    • Adam Czech

      The unsustainable argument just doesn’t fly with me, especially when you refuse to open your books to the players you’re trying to poach more money from and the public that pays for your stadiums whether they are football fans or not.

      Saying that your business is unsustainable is one of those arguments that is technically never wrong. It all depends what your definition of unsustainable is. It’s not a fair context to put the entire issue in, but the owners know it’s their best shot to cash in even more than they already are while business continues to boom.

  • Taryn

    The statements released by both sides pisses me off.The sentiments directed toward the fans is an insult from both sides.
    I depict us fans as being the Tomcat on the fence in the alley purring out the love for football.While on each side of the alley dwell those who speak of their love for our crooning while tossing shoes at us in synchronization of their own beat.

  • CheesyD

    The owners offered to have an independent auditor (chosen by both sides) to go over the books. The union refused. Screw those overpaid pansies.

    I side with the owners and blame the players for any lockout. Overwhelming greed to be whining about the money they get to play football.

    • Pete Kliman

      They are both whining. However,I’ll side with the players who can only earn their millions for a number of years and put their health on the line. Unlike the owners who reap the benefits from generation to generation.

  • Pete Kliman

    Sounds very much Like our state and federal budget problems. Politicians spending like drunken sailors for decades and now they finally want to lower the budget immediately and drastically. If this political comment insults anyone than you are part of the problem and not the solution because if more people got involved and unified in both situations we would not have this mess. The owners are like PT Barnum and believe that a sucker is born everyday.

  • Adam Czech

    I’d be more inclined to side with the owners if they could prove they were somehow struggling financially. But again, how am I supposed to believe that your business model is not sustainable when taxpayers pay for your facilities, you receive billions from TV networks and corporate sponsorships, ticket prices go up every year, and every other person I know owns an NFL team jersey that costs an arm and a leg.

    I’d also be more inclined to side with the owners if the players were asking for more money. But they’re not.

  • ELong

    Noone is forcing them to play football. If they think they can make more in some other field – go for it. The owners don’t need to show their books – its none of the players business. Try asking your boss to see his paystub the next time your asking for a raise.

  • aaronqb

    The owners are not in the wrong. The current financial model is unsound and needs to be fixed. Of course the players don’t want to change a deal that is tilted in their favor.

    I would like a very long work stoppage – perhaps the entire season – to give the players a reality check. They are free to shop their services elsewhere in this great economy.

  • Adam Czech

    Wow! Very surprised at the love for owners. Thought it would be the opposite.

    ELong: That’s unfair. These guys play football. Where else are they supposed to go and do that? You’re saying they should become teachers or construction workers if they feel playing football is unfair? If a computer programmer is unhappy with his pay, he can go to a different company. He wouldn’t be asked to all of the sudden take up plumbing. Saying football players should go do something else and shut up is not a fair way to approach the issue. And you’re damn right I would ask to see my boss’s paystub if he tried to cut my pay while the company raked in billions of dollars because of the job I did. Every single taxpayer should be demanding to see each team’s books since we finance stadiums for NFL owner’s even and help them get even richer.

    2. aaronqb: You say the current financial model is “unsound and needs to be fixed.” Why? I know that’s the owner’s favorite talking point, but show me one shred of evidence that supports that. (Well, show me two. Rookie salaries should be fixed. I’ll give you that one.)

    • Pete Kliman

      ” And you’re damn right I would ask to see my {boss’s]owner’s paystub if he tried to cut my pay while the company raked in billions of dollars because of the job I did”,thanks for that.In other words,players deserve their pay because they are a big reason that football is a 9 billion dollar business.In a direct analogy to this is America’s incredible wealth. If Cal.& Tex. were countries their economies would rank 8th & 12th in the global market. Yet the workers that are part of that success are made to feel unreasonable because we want health care benefits.Lets wake up here, you guys are scaring the hell out of me.

    • Chad Toporski

      Not to mention that the books of public companies are open anyway. And what you state about the players finding a new job is 100% accurate. I believe that’s the crux of the antitrust suit; however, the rise of arena football could make things a bit dicey.

      Also, Adam, just wanted to say I loved that article by Bill Simmons. I started listening to his BS Report during the season and am glad I did.

      • Adam Czech

        Usually I find Simmons’ writing a bit over the top for my tastes, but I thought he was right on with his lockout analogy. His podcasts are always good because he mostly brings up interesting topics and lets his guests do the talking.

  • ELong

    Adam – I love you’re posts on the game of football. However, I still completely disagree with your business assessment of the current labor situation. I guess it’s a matter of how much you entrust basic free maket principals to operate. I just don’t buy the “poor worker” analogy for NFL players. I’m also baffled at the complete lack of acknowledgement that the person that owns a business gets to actually decide how to spend his/her profits. Scary how the very concept of capitalism now seems wrong to so many Americans. I miss Lombardi.

    • Adam Czech

      I never used a “poor worker” analogy to describe the NFL players and I don’t think the players themselves have either. It’s the players that are actually capitalists in this situation, not the owners. They see the league has grown because of what they do on the field, and they’re asking to be compensated fairly for it. I don’t think anybody bought a ticket last season to watch Dan Snyder or Jerry Jones sit in the owner’s box.

      Where do you get the capitalist angle from anyway? The NFL is about the furthest thing you can get from capitalism. Taxpayers finance stadiums, there is league-wide revenue sharing, and there is no other comparable league that provides competition. The NFL would make Karl Marx very proud.

    • Pete Kliman

      It scares me only when it festers into greed.