NFL owners’ foul play

What a fitting venue: The royal palace of Jerry Jones’ kingdom, Cowboys stadium, will be the home of Superbowl XLV.  More than 100,000 are expected to pack the stadium on game day.

But there is one aspect of this year’s Super Bowl that many tend to ignore, and that’s the chance that this stadium could be the burial ground for the sport we love.

An estimated $9 billion operation could be torn down by Jones and his fellow team owners if an agreement is not reached with the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA).  The owners want serious concessions from the 2006 collective bargaining agreement, an agreement the players, perhaps mistakenly, admitted was a “great deal.”  Owners want concessions on an array of issues, most notably an 18-game regular season, a rookie salary cap, and a pay cut in the players’ share of revenue.

If March 3rd comes and goes without an agreement in place, National Football League (NFL) owners will lock out their employees and endanger next year’s season.

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At stake are thousands of jobs and small businesses across the country.  For many, their very livelihoods are at risk. Bars, restaurants, and other businesses in NFL cities depend heavily on Sundays, as do stadium employees and parking lot operators.

A study released last month by Edgeworth Economics highlights the potential impact of a canceled NFL season.  The study purports that every city with an NFL franchise stands to lose about $160 million in revenue, $5 billion total, and an aggregate of 115,000 jobs. The study was commissioned by the NFLPA.

“They don’t care, and that’s our concern here,” said George Atallah, assistant executive director of external affairs for the NFLPA, in an interview with the Beacon. “They have made no consideration for [the people affected].”

And that is the simple truth: The owners do not care about the ramifications of this lockout.  It’s as though we’re all collateral damage, from Peyton Manning to the local busboy at MJ O’Connors. The owners want more money. Period.

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NFL spokesman Greg Aiello calls this study a “fairy tale” on the NFL Labor site.

I invited Mr. Aiello or anyone from the NFL to comment directly to the Beacon. Instead, I was sent an email that linked to an article on the NFL labor website.

“Are you going to support a family on selling parking tickets or beer?” Professor Robert Baade, asked in the NFL article, cited to undercut the validity of Edgeworth’s analysis.

What an egregious comment. One cannot be more out of touch.  The answer is yes, Professor, thousands do.  And further, for many, it is a second or third job in an attempt to make ends meet.  For them, it’s not about how to pay for a Tom Brady jersey, it’s how to keep the lights and heat on in their homes.

And, in the public discourse that is a constant reminder of how little these owners care about actual people, their response to this study is a fine microcosm. No numbers.  No facts. Just incredibly lazy rhetoric.

The NFL owners have yet to offer a commensurate study.  But they have, ironically, provided the numbers for Edgeworth’s study.

“The NFL has yet to acknowledge that this study is derived from economic numbers they present to municipalities for tax subsidies,” Atallah said.

That’s right. The basis for Edgeworth’s study were the NFL’s own numbers, which were used in various pitches to cities across the country for why tax subsidies, to offset the cost of building new stadiums, would benefit the community economically.  The NFL’s pitch to the cities focused on creating jobs, tax revenue, and, overall, the basic rationale for the city to desire an NFL team and stadium.  That is public record. Now the NFL is ignoring the very facts that they themselves presented. They have been hoisted by their own petard.

Claiming to be suffering economically, with costs rising and revenues not keeping up, the owners have refused to open their books for analysis. But by simply showing, line-by-line, what their expenses are and what their income is, they would seemingly end the debate.  In past labor negotiations, the National Basketball Association (NBA) owners opened their books to the union. The National Hockey League (NHL) has done so in the past. The precedent is there and yet the owners refuse.

“Were not asking for anything.  We didn’t opt-out of the deal,” Atallah said. “We’ve asked them to share their financial information and they’ve said no.”

Sadly, they don’t need public support to lock out the players, cut thousands of jobs, and kill small businesses. The owners have the economic leverage to win this war, as they have horded billions to survive a cancelled season.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned. The public perception is that this fight is between millionaire players and billionaire owners. It’s not. The owners and players will survive. It is the working stiffs, ordinary Americans that will be affected by the owners bullying tactics. Wasn’t that the reason for unions in the first place?

The NFL owners don’t care, but I’m angry.  And you should be too.