NFL Lockout on the Horizon

In a grim outlook for the NFL in the near future, ESPN.com’s Lester Munson is reporting that the NFL owners could lock out the players before the 2011 season.

The point of contention for the owners is the terms of a 2006 collective bargaining agreement in which owners agreed to let players receive 60 percent of NFL revenue. It had been 55.5 percent before the new agreement. By 2009, the salary cap is expected to be $123 million per team, which would mark a 43 percent increase from 2005, when it was $85.5 million per team.

The owners are arguing that their profit share in their teams is decreasing, partly because of the increased percentage of NFL revenue they now share with the players. The meteoric rise in the salary cap is certainly a hindrance as well.

Munson suggests that the NFL owners will opt out of their current CBA with the players, which they can do between now and November. If they do that, the 2008 and 2009 seasons would require teams to still operate under their salary caps. However, the 2010 season would allow teams to operate without a salary cap, which would be a prelude to a 2011 lockout.

If the NFL owners were to take this road, Gene Upshaw, head of the NFL Players Association, stated that he would decertify the player’s union. This means that the organization will relinquish its role official labor organization of NFL players and become strictly a trade organization. The impact of this decision is that it is an antitrust violation to lockout employees who are not unionized.

Much of the owners’ scorn revolves around David Doty, a Minneapolis judge. Doty was deeply involved with the creation of a salary cap and free agency in 1993, which benefited players in many ways.

More recently, the gasket on the owners’ distrust for Doty blew open when the judge invited player’s union officials into his chamber – while shuttering out league executives and lawyers – 30 minutes before his November ruling on whether the now-imprisoned Michael Vick would be able to keep his performance bonuses with the Atlanta Falcons.

Doty ruled in favor of Vick, allowing the disgraced former superstar to keep $19 million in “earned” bonuses. The ruling was the latest in what NFL owners had felt had been too many player-favored decisions over the years.

The owners want Doty out of the picture and would ideally like to pick their own judge to handle their upcoming dispute with the player’s association regarding sharing revenue.
The players are upset with the NFL over a league decision that the players fear could cost them money before the 2010 season.

The NFL recently decreased the borrowing limits allowed by each NFL team, from $150 million to $120 million. The borrowing limits will decrease by $960 million altogether.

Since the players believe that owners upgrade their contracts with mostly “borrowed” money, the players are suggesting that this decision by the NFL is a form of collusion. They believe the timing for this decision is decidedly convenient for the owners, considering the monetary possibilities that exist with a season of salary cap-free football.

The root of this growing contention, however, is the owners’ distaste for the financial details of the 2006 CBA. The owners feel as though they let the players take too much money. The owners, many of whom must view their teams strictly as business ventures, want to maximize profits. They feel their profits would be much more lucrative if the players weren’t getting such a large piece of the pie.

This will be a story to track as the owners’ November deadline to opt out of their current CBA draws nearer.


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