Billionaire Jerry Jones, owner of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys and fabulous Texas Stadium, site of last week’s Super Bowl XLV, said recently, “Are we going to be playing in the fall?” Football that is, like games?
Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott told me at the Super Bowl that this contract with the owners and players is the most important new contract in sports history. Faith is the ability to not panic. The NFL owners have not had much to say of late. Silence is often misinterpreted, but never misquoted.
Did you know that the NFL players all get paid $400 each per game to play in the four pre-season games? And that the NFL owners don’t share any of the revenue from pre-season games with the players? And that the owners charge fans the same for tickets and suites in the pre-season as they do in the regular season?
Is revenue distribution fair and appropriate or too partial to the powerful? That is the question I would like to ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. He has been called the most influential and powerful person in sports. So far, he appears to be the most partial commissioner I’ve witnessed in my 32 years of covering the league.
He continues to echo only the owners’ demands and has closed his ears to what the players are saying. And the players have not asked for a raise even though as entertainers the business is doing very well. The NFL just finished a record season in terms of revenues and ratings.
Eighteen of the top-20 rated television shows last year were NFL football games for the first time in history. Last Sunday’s Super Bowl on FOX, won by the Green Bay Packers, was seen by more people than any television program in history, more than an estimated 111 million viewers.
Goodell makes $10 million per year and started with the NFL many years ago as an intern. Now he has to keep the 32 owners from damaging the game.
The NFL, because of the owners and players and thanks to the fans, is the most successful model in professional sports. However, labor strife is looming now that the season is over and the current collective bargaining agreement is ending March 3. Nothing is real to you until you experience it; otherwise it’s just hearsay.
It appears to me that the 32 NFL owners want to force the NFL’s 1,700 players to take what they have offered or else. I have covered this great league for 32 years; in fact, I hitched my wagon to it. No other game in all of sports compares. The business of football is a great American model of success.
The NFL players have one objective: “Let us play.” A lockout by the owners means potential layoffs of office staff, scouts, etc., which would save the owners millions. And what’s really sad is that players with injuries, aches, pains and bruises from the grueling season cannot go to their teams’ workplaces for treatment by team doctors and trainers.
The NFL generates $9 billion annually, and the owners take the first billion off the top for themselves. The owners then pay the players from 55 to 57 percent of the defined gross revenues up to each team’s salary cap. The owners desire to reduce the share of league revenue set aside for player salaries by 18 percent or $1 billion starting next year.
The owners also hope to force the players to play 18 regular season games for less money. No wonder the players are saying, “Don’t ask us to trust you — show us your books.” I explained earlier that the players’ contracts don’t start until the regular season. The owners want to keep more of their profits so they can reinvest in the business by enhancing stadiums and pursuing new ventures.
The owners want to institute a new wage scale for rookies that would reduce the amount that teams are paying untested players. The union said the players are opposed to any overall salary cuts. The union has asked the owners to show their books to the players.
Goodell recently said, “We have to get beyond this negotiating ploy of opening the books, because that’s all it is.” Frankly, the players have no reason to trust the owners. Most of the owners are Republicans, all but one. History has shown us that most Republicans don’t trust Democrats.
The union has already accused the NFL of structuring TV contracts so the owners would be guaranteed money even if there were a lockout in 2011. The owners have refused only to use the model of the Green Bay Packers in the NFL’s smallest market as an example.
Last week the owners walked away from talks with the union. It does not look good for a deal being made by March 3.
Trust me: All franchises are not created equal. Some teams have great stadiums, some have better than others, and then you have the Minnesota Vikings with no stadium. It’s my feeling that the owners of the top revenue teams — say the top 10, all valued at over $1.1 billion — are tired of subsidizing the bottom 10 franchises (Cincinnati, Minnesota, etc.) annually with shared profits in revenue from the $1 billion the owners receive from the players.
The Joneses of the NFL and other owners of teams like Washington, New England, Philadelphia and Houston in the top 10 are sick of doing this, which comes off the top of their shared profits. So the owners have decided to just pay the players less money. What a novel idea. After all, they are just players.
Fitz Super Notes
Your toughest competitors are always willing to teach you a lesson. The Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers proved that last season by beating their top rivals Chicago and Minnesota four out of five.
The Packers hired Mike McCarthy five years ago, the same season Brad Childress was hired by the Vikings. McCarthy’s record is 52-34 and 5-2 in the playoffs with one Vince Lombardi Trophy. “It’s great to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay,” said McCarthy. “We had some adversity. We lost some guys to injury.”
It took three years before Childress beat McCarthy’s Packers, and ex-Packer quarterback Brett Favre in 2009 beat the Packers twice. The Packers are the first Super Bowl Champion in recent memory to lose to the Detroit Lions.
The Packers could not have won it without several former Vikings working for them: Vice President of Football Administration/Player Finance Russ Ball, Director of Research & Development Mike Eayrs, Vice President of Sales & Marketing Tim Connolly, Director of Public Relations Jeff Blum and Staff Writer Tom Fanning.
I’m going to give the Packers credit for their victory over Chicago in the NFC Championship game 21-14, although as a native of Chicago it was tough to swallow at the time. I thought about what President Barack Obama said; had the Bears won, he was going to Dallas for Super Bowl XVL.
History reminds us what happened the last time a sitting Democratic President, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, went to Dallas in November of 1963. I remember; I was a small child student at Our Lady of Perpetual Help School on Chicago’s west side. Catholic nuns were our teachers, and they were absolutely devastated when it happened. We were watching the assassination on TV. It had a profound affect on my social consciousness and still does influence how I view Dallas and America.
When you hear today Republican FOX News commentators fueling the myth and stupidity that President Obama was born a Muslim, that contributes to hatred. While in downtown Dallas, every time we went by the assassination site I was haunted by memories of that day.
Larry Fitzgerald can be heard weekday mornings on KMOJ Radio 89.9 FM at 8:25 am, and on WDGY-AM 740 Monday-Friday at 12:17 pm and 4:17 pm; he also commentates on sports 7-8 pm on Almanac (TPT channel 2). Larry welcomes reader responses to email@example.com, or visit www.Larry-Fitzgerald.com.