There is a lot of pining going on and I do not mean Paul Bunyan and his buddies chopping down 30 foot pine trees. The pining is in regards to the work stoppage now happening in the National Football League.
All of the issues between the NFL and its players did not just get off the midnight train from Clarksville, Georgia. This impasse is the direct result of events that have been evolving for over eleven decades. For example this question has been posed often over the years. Did the late NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw sell out the players when he drew up the CBA agreement in 1987? He may not have sold them out but in my opinion he definitely placed them in a very questionable and precarious bargaining position. The salary cap was legislated and enacted during his watch.
The salary cap issue was and is still huge because if there is an earnings cap on players, why isn’t there a cap placed on the owners? The owners also have revenue sharing. The players do not have anything close. Former Giants Hall-of-Fame quarterback Phil Simms was once asked if the salary cap was one of the primary reasons he “retired.” Simms said; “Oh, I don’t think there’s any question. Fifteen years I played with the Giants. I wanted to finish there and to think that I couldn’t…that’s the only thing that upsets me.” When it came to the deal Upshaw crafted, Cowboys Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin once said; People will say hey that’s why you can’t put a Black man in that position. Not only did he let me down as a football player, he let me down as a Black man.” Was Upshaw paid some “kickback dollars” to settle with the union? Chances are we will never know.
See it’s okay to cap players’ salaries but the owners theoretically can make all the money they want. Revenue sharing did not happen until former Players Union Chief Ed Garvey started to push the concept as a result of his estimate that the owners were “freezing the books” as opposed to “cooking the books.” For those of you that might not know; “cooking the books means using shady accounting practices to show that your company is doing a lot better, at least on paper hiding as many losses and liabilities as you can get away with.” “Freezing the books” and this is an original inside conditions definition means; “the accountants may show false and non-existent liabilities that dilute and diminish profit margins.” When it comes to the NFL owners, their books may be frozen so hard that it is a distinct possibility their accountants reside in the Arctic Circle.
The NFL was founded in 1920 and for more than a half-century there was no sharing of the ownership profits with the players. Now an estimated 2/3 of the NFL’s money comes from their deal with the television networks. The players’ share is approximately 2/3 of team revenue. That means a large percentage of the TV contract goes to pay the players. The money from the TV contract is based on equal shares. All of the franchises receive the same amount of loot. This money insures the success of smaller franchises like Pittsburgh and Green Bay.
Look at all of the other ways that the NFL gets money; licensed jerseys, shoes, photos, jackets, etc. This money is also equally shared.
What about the “gate?” This money is split 60-40, with the visiting team getting 40 percent. Teams in North Carolina and Jacksonville just love it when the Steelers or Raiders come to play. These are the two or three games each year these teams can count on packing the house. Sometimes you will find that to buy a ticket to see your favorite team on the road you may be forced to purchase a package of two or three tickets. This is another way to “fatten up the goats” of the owners.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear. I am entirely neutral in regards to a collective bargaining agreement or lack of between the NFLPA or should I say the former NFLPA (just joking) and the NFL. I am just like Sergeant Joe Friday from the ’60s television series, “Dragnet,” I am just “stating the facts.”
Current NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith has the unenviable task of negotiating a current and future deal for the players that he represents while at the same time removing the scabs and scar tissue from past agreements. Could there have been numerous shady and slanted dealings between the so-called advocates of players rights who may have in the past just been paid lackeys and flunkys put in place by NFL ownership and management? What was the saying by my main man Forrest Gump? “Stupid is as stupid does.” Well football fans don’t go crying the blues if it costs more to see your favorite team. If you do not like the fees stay home. Players, if you don’t feel that you’re being paid what you are worth don’t sign. Owners, if you feel that a player wants too much money bid him adieu because we all have choices.
(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-583-6741.)