NFL lockout: Owners are nothing but pigs at the trough

Roger Goodell provides over a league that's about to run over the golden goose.

Roger Goodell provides over a league that's about to run over the golden goose. (AP photo)

(Updated at 6:30 p.m.)

Against the backdrop of one of the worst U.S. economies since bread lines, a $9 billion sports league is on the verge of shutting down. And we thought Charlie Sheen was an idiot.

We have billionaires sounding like struggling shrimp boat captains on the Mississippi Gulf coast after the oil spill. We have commissioner Roger Goodell claiming the financial structure of the league is broken. We have Jeff Pash, the NFL’s general counsel, proclaiming that teams are being “squeezed.”

Squeezed?

Television contracts alone pay out $3.085 billion per year, which basically means each team takes in over $96 million annually before it has sold a ticket, a T-shirt or a peanut. Half of the league’s 32 teams are valued at over $1 billion and the relative pauper of the group, the Jacksonville Jaguars, are valued at $725 million. The NFL is the largest live spectator sport in the world in terms of average attendance (over 66,000 per game). NFL merchandise accounts for $2.7 billion in annual sales. The recent Super Bowl was viewed by about 111 million viewers.

Should I go on, or is that enough to dispel the notion of anyone being “squeezed”?

Just as soon as we get finished fixing the auto industry, the airlines and the real estate market, we all need to help Jerry Jones pay off the note for the Italian marble counter tops at his hot dog stands.

Let’s be clear about something: NFL owners care about two things: 1) Their wallet; 2) Your wallet. Everything else is window dressing.

Your new official NFL football. (Denver Post)

Your new official NFL football. (Denver Post)

I’m not anti-business. NFL owners are entitled to make as much money as they can. I’m certainly not going to attempt to paint a picture that the head of the NFL players union is operating on the same level as Sally Field desperately trying to rally textile factory workers in “Norma Rae.”

But this whole thing is bunk.

The negotiating deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement has been extended to Friday at midnight. But the league is close to a lockout, not because the globe’s most successful sports enterprise is in trouble but because a melee has broken out among the pigs at the trough.

It’s not my intent to burden you with the minutia of CBA talks. Having covered too many strikes, lockouts and various forms of labor unrest, I’ve come to learn the average fan just doesn’t care. But this isn’t a typical labor situation.

This is an intended mugging by NFL owners.

They want another $1 billion off the top from total revenues, in addition to the $1 billion they already get off the top before players get their share. Owners rationalize this by saying the money will be “reinvested” in the product, which will lead to even more revenue for the players.

Really?

OK, try this. Imagine you work at a restaurant. You make $50,000 a year as a waiter. The restaurant owner said, “I’m cutting your salary by $10,000 so that I can enhance my restaurant with new tables and a flat screen TV in the bar. But don’t worry. Because then we’ll do more business and eventually you’ll make even more money!”

Terrific. So what happened to my other $10,000 again?

Let me tell you what this is really about. Owners are upset because, while they have it great, they don’t have it as great as they used to. Local governments used to approve sweet financing deals for new stadiums or spiffy upgrades. Roads, freeway off-ramps, foundations, walls, luxury suites – much of it was financed by taxpayers.

In short: We were suckers. Then we wised up. Los Angeles residents came to this realization first. You’ll note that there is no NFL team in L.A. because nobody can push through a publicly financed stadium. It drives the league crazy that people there have their priorities straight (Charlie Sheen notwithstanding).

NFL owners might be even more disingenuous than NCAA presidents. They express concerns about the health and welfare of players, yet they’re pushing for an 18-game schedule. Players already wake up five years after their careers and can’t remember what direction the kitchen is – or their legs won’t take them there.

Owners have been planning for this. They had language written into TV contracts that would give them a $4 billion safety net (effectively a loan) in case of a lockout. A U.S. district judge now has declared that language an unfair and illegal labor practice. It’s like he threw the book at 32 Mr. Potters.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter @JeffSchultzAJC; friend me at Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC

464 comments Add your comment

FIrst But Who Cares?

March 3rd, 2011
3:06 pm

First…but who really cares?

ncb34

March 3rd, 2011
3:07 pm

just hope everyone shuts up about the nfl after tonight.
it’s a joke. sick of hearing about this.

Michael

March 3rd, 2011
3:09 pm

Not first….dang…..don’t really care about a lockout……went to a CLASSY college baseball game, sat in the front row 40 feet from home plate…….tickets were $6.00 apiece…….

Tucker T

March 3rd, 2011
3:10 pm

Wow. A “Norma Rae” reference. Well done.

DJ Sniper

March 3rd, 2011
3:11 pm

The more I read about this, the more disdain I have for the owners and Roger Goddell. They are about to seriously piss away all the goodwill they’ve built up over the years as the #1 sport in the country.

I read on nfl.com that the league has now agreed to open up their books to the union so everybody can see the numbers. I’m sure the recent decision by judge David Doty had something to do with that.

DrKnowledge

March 3rd, 2011
3:21 pm

and the insanity of it all is we are being asked to consider a new stadium for the Falcons?

Madison Dawg

March 3rd, 2011
3:23 pm

Jeff, If the Union decerifies like everyone is saying will individual players be able to play or are the owners going to play with replacement players. I can’t imagine they will not play next season all together….

AGTFan53

March 3rd, 2011
3:24 pm

We should open a new soup kitchen for those poor down trodden-owners. Of course, it’s hard to have too much sympathy for the players when you compare them to the school teachers and firemen who are getting their unions busted after agreeing to all the cuts asked of them. I keep wondering why we don’t see any GB Packers player trying to protect collective bargaining for the other public employees in Wisconsin.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

March 3rd, 2011
3:25 pm

I am glad somebody with a voice had the stones to call the owners the thugs that they are
great read Jeff !

wawel78

March 3rd, 2011
3:26 pm

It’s the owners’ investment and because of that, they should be able to run the ship as they see fit. Am I missing something because I am pretty sure the players are free to develop their own league.

It is baffling to me that people think they should be able to tell other people how much money they should make or how much they should spend. It’s quite arrogant, actually.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

March 3rd, 2011
3:27 pm

wait till there are riots in the streets like libya….fans will be furious if there is no NFL this year, i know i’ll be. agreed that given the current state of the economy, the commish & owners are complaining after posting $9B in revenue..absolutely disgusting

Joey

March 3rd, 2011
3:29 pm

Bunk. A description that could be also be said of a “union” of multi-millionaires.

Sage of Bluesland

March 3rd, 2011
3:30 pm

It never ceases to amaze me that the silent variable in the entire equation–the fans and the craved dollar which resides in their pocket–is the variable which is most overlooked. The owners and the players have completely forgotten which of the variables is actually the most important….which party actually fuels the entire machine.

I long for the day the fans actually banded together and reminded all parties who had the real ‘power’…boycott a single game; don’t watch it on tv; threaten boycotts to the sponsors; threaten boycotts to the networks….

An attitude-adjustment is long-overdue…but I realize how fantastic that dream of mine is….but I will continue to dream such dreams…

Charlie Sheen

March 3rd, 2011
3:30 pm

Hey Schulzie,

Leave me out of it, will you?

Econ 101

March 3rd, 2011
3:32 pm

Jeff, you are not stating all the facts. How much revenue did the Falcons make last year? How much profit did the Falcons make last year? You state $96 million in revenue from TV deals which is the major source of revenue for the NFL certainly not the only.

How much was the Falcons payroll last year on players alone? How much is their overhead on operating the franchise and their non-player payroll. The point here is until you truly analyze the income statements you don’t know what you are talking about. Just because Arthur Blank made millions at Home Depot does that mean he should give up the majority of revenue to the players. The two are not related.

Buckeye

March 3rd, 2011
3:33 pm

Really don’t care either way in the meantime.

1. Conference Tournaments
2. The NCAA
3. The Masters
4. The Braves ( ok, not so much)

Aside from the NFL Draft, who really cares until the end of August? Provide and update after the PGA at the AAC.

Buckeye

March 3rd, 2011
3:35 pm

Think Jim Nantz cares at the moment with the next 6 weeks he has on his agenda?

Jason

March 3rd, 2011
3:35 pm

Jeff, you stated it perfectly. This is a classic case of greed on the owners part. Not that the players aren’t being a little greedy in some areas too, but the owners are truly showing that money never satisfies.

When the league eventually comes back, any cities that still choose to support stadiums with taxpayer funds ought to put language in the bills to require repayment from teams in the case of a lockout that causes games not to be played.

hop

March 3rd, 2011
3:36 pm

the owners gave way too much money in previous deal with players and yes, the.
opening of their books will bare this out
by giving a better income share might cool off the talk
in atlanta of a new field.

WE DO NOT NEED A NEW VENUE FOR THE FALCONS!

IF BLANK WANTS IT, HE SHOULD FINANCE IT HIMSELF.

tim

March 3rd, 2011
3:37 pm

The owners are actually fat pigs feeding the other pigs.

LAKE OCONEE DAWG

March 3rd, 2011
3:37 pm

SCULTZIE, YOU GOT THEM DEAD TO RIGHTS….SCREW THE OWNERS AND ROGER GOODELL….HOPE THAT THE WORD IS GOTTEN OUT THAT IT INDEED IS THE OWNER’S GREED AND ROGER GOODELL IS THEIR PUPPET……

Joey

March 3rd, 2011
3:38 pm

You are on the money, wawel78, so to speak.

I just closed the doors on my business, which I started from scratch. It went from making a profit for the first three years to almost zilch after the housing market bust.

Those owners paid a lot of money and took enormous risks to start and/or buy those teams. If the players aren’t happy with the millions they make, let them go try to earn a living in the real world.

I hear you

March 3rd, 2011
3:40 pm

The NFL might be heading down the same road MLB did. I was lured back to baseball after the strike but was not nearly as big a fan. After watching Atlanta players smiling and chatting in the dugout as the Braves lost in the first round of the 2002 playoffs I decided enough was enough.

It seemed nuts to support a sport where I cared more about them loseing than the plaers and owner did. I have not watched or listened to a baseball game since then. Even after the strike I went to at least 20 games a season and watched a ton more. I don’t miss it in the least now.

I hope the greed of players and owners don’t make me give up on football too. I tend to side more with the players, but it’s hard to pity anyone pulling down tens of millions who are idolized by millions and who have zero accountability to those fans who worship them. The owners are even worse. Even a guy like Blank who I generally respect and admire wants me and other taxpayers to pay for a new stadium just so he can make more money than he does off the present one.

EW

March 3rd, 2011
3:40 pm

Great take on this JS. I too feel like this whole thing is crap. When baseball went on strike in the 90’s it took years for fans to fully come back to the game, myself included. Sadly, I think that the closer we get to a lockout or the longer we get into one, the players will have to cave to the pressure of not making any money and will agree to the owners’ deal.

Tale of Woe

March 3rd, 2011
3:40 pm

Schultzie – Normally I agree with you (I know, I am on A LOT of medications), but your restaurant analogy got me to thinking – if my owner said hey I am going to take 10k and reinvest it in the business so you can make twice as much (more seats, flat screen TV, better food, more advertising), then I would be all for it. Why not – I can give up 10k now if I can make 20k more next year. Nothing wrong with that.

Tale of Woe

March 3rd, 2011
3:41 pm

I hear you – Have you ever watched the movie Fever Pitch? You need to….

Reid Adair

March 3rd, 2011
3:46 pm

Oh, come on, Jeff. Why are you getting on Charlie Sheen? All he’s worried about is “winning!!!”

I do agree wholeheartedly with you. This is solely about the owners.

I hear you

March 3rd, 2011
3:48 pm

Does watching FOX and it’s squad of idiot conservative clowns bring down IQ’s or do you have to be a moron to watch them in the first place? The old chicken or the egg quandry.

The reason I ask is I see comments from people who pity the poor owners and anyone I’ve ever known who sided with the owners in situations like this are foxnews junkies.

Joey

March 3rd, 2011
3:48 pm

Oh no, Econ 101, Jeff wouldn’t know a balance sheet. Income is income! $96M! The greedy owners get to spend the whole thing!

Owners don’t have to pay for such thing as expenses like players salaries, insurance for the players, workers comp, practice facilities, etc.

Oh, Jeff, but the way, I read the other day that the current Super Bowl Champs, the Packers, who, by the way, don’t have a single, greedy owner, but thousands of shareholders. The Packers are barely breaking even, and the downward trend will have them losing money soon.

Joey

March 3rd, 2011
3:50 pm

Yes, idiot liberal, I watch Fox News.

Exactly, Tale of Woe...

March 3rd, 2011
3:50 pm

…the owners have ALL the risk here and deserve to do whatever they please since it is their money – the players have A stake in that they feed the owners, while getting “fed” quite handsomely for that stake. If the players don’t want to play, let’s take a poll and see how they vote without, as Neal Boortz says, the Union goons prodding them…

DJ Sniper

March 3rd, 2011
3:50 pm

Just in case anybody feels the urge to call the players greedy, let me say this: The players are not asking for more money. They simply want to keep the deal that’s already there. The owners are asking the players to reduce their revenue share from 60% down to 42% or somewhere in that range. They are also asking for an extra $1 billion off the top, in addition to the $1 billion that they already get.

The other part that pisses me off is their urge to increase the regular season from 16 to 18 games. Roger Goddell keeps preaching player safety, yet he wants to turn around and add 2 more games which will increase the chance for more injuries. Also, he needs to quit trying to convince people that fans don’t like the preseason, because there are plenty of us who do. What we don’t like is paying full price for what amounts to a glorified scrimmage.

Big Macon Dawg

March 3rd, 2011
3:52 pm

Who needs the NFL?

Next year’s Georgia Team could beat nearly have the NFL squads, anyway.

Dream Team Baby!!!!

Tale of Woe

March 3rd, 2011
3:52 pm

I’m on your side “I hear you”…These lines got me to thinking about the move “after watching Atlanta players smiling and chatting in the dugout as the Braves lost in the first round of the 2002 playoffs I decided enough was enough. It seemed nuts to support a sport where I cared more about them losing than the players and owner did.”

There is a great scene in a bar where a bunch of red sox players come in after a playoff loss and they are eating dinner and laughing. Jilly Fallon and his crew get all mad that they are laughing and stuff. It is a very true scene and your comments made me think about that movie

E43

March 3rd, 2011
3:54 pm

Owners need to understand that Americans WILL WATCH FOOTBALL when they choose to do so. the owners have this “lets hold everyone hostage” mentality like players simply cant just play for other leagues. Or fans will just wont watch football altogether. Just because they want to have a lockout doesnt mean ill stop watching football. I ll watch HSFB. NCAA, Canadian football, Australian football. rugby soccer and the UFL whenever possible. Trust me the owners aren’t going to hold me hostage. They act like the lockout will gain the trust of endorsements when truth be told the world will just move on to the next big thing. The will loose their revenue sooner or later.Just because your not happy with the hassle cased by your billions of dollars doesn’t mean someone else wont be happy with that same billions of dollars.

stw

March 3rd, 2011
3:54 pm

Schultz–The owners put up the money and I guarantee if the players all quit, then within 2 weeks the rosters would be complete and 2 years from that date no one would remember who they were.. The vast majority of the players who get guaranteed contracts don’t give 100% and could care less about anyone but themselves..

I hear you

March 3rd, 2011
3:54 pm

Tale of Woe

A Farrelly Brothers romantic comedy is relevant to me thinking Braves players should at least wait until the game was over and the cameras were off before planning their tee times for the next day in what way exactly?

Hankie Aron

March 3rd, 2011
3:56 pm

Jeff, one of your best columns yet. I have always thought the players got a lesser piece of the pie in the NFL as oppossed to the NBA or MLB. When you sign a contract as a baseball or basketball player, you get the money come hell or high water whether you play or not. An NFL guy gets his signing bonus and then plays through his contract. Most never see the end to their contract because they are cut long beforehand

I hear you

March 3rd, 2011
3:57 pm

stw

That worked real well for the xfl didn’t it? No one would watch a bunch of scrubs play football. You have to look no further than tech and their empty seats to know that.

Saints T-Shirt Sellout

March 3rd, 2011
3:57 pm

Really well said, Jeff. Totally agree. If a lockout does ensue, here are a list of “in the meantime” (Buckeye) pastimes which I will refuse to give in to (aka – “sports” force fed by the world wide leader):

Arena Football
NASCAR
BASS Fishing Tourney
Professional Bowling
The Olympics (you never know how long this thing will last)
“Replacement” NFL (can the teams still draft, Jeff?)
Nationwide Tour
WNBA

Tale of Woe

March 3rd, 2011
3:57 pm

That’s right. I mean – why? Because they haven’t won a World Series in a century or so? So what? They’re here. Every April, they’re here. At 1:05 or at 7:05, there is a game. And if it gets rained out, guess what? They make it up to you. Does anyone else in your life do that? The Red Sox don’t get divorced. This is a real family. This is the family that’s here for you.

Newt Gingrich

March 3rd, 2011
4:00 pm

What about the Contract with America? Sage is right. The fans are the ones who will suffer. The League and the players got the T.V. money, and are saying “what ever” to the fans. We do the same thing about the gas as we do with the NFL. Don’t “buy” into it. Start with the advertisers, the networks will come into line, and on down the line. Show em what a real “Lock Out” is really about.

I hear you

March 3rd, 2011
4:00 pm

Tale of Woe

My bad I see you answered my question while I was asking it. I thought that was some kind of slight comparing me to Jimmy Fallon. Yes I remember that scene now that you reminded me

TheAntiMe

March 3rd, 2011
4:03 pm

Maybe after the lockout carries over into next season one of the lucky owners can coax Keanu Reeves into leading his team of replacement players next season. “We have a collect call from Jerry Jones to Shane Falco. Will you accept the charges?” It worked out pretty well for Keanu in The Replacements.

PHIL

March 3rd, 2011
4:03 pm

HEY JIFF-ITS THE OWNNERS TEAM-THEY PUT IN THE RISK AND INVESTMENT-THE OWNERS ARE PIGS? THEN THE PLAYERS ARE 2-HERE’S MORE PRO-UNION GARB FROM A PRO-UNION GUY AT A LIBERAL PRO-UNION PAPER

Joey

March 3rd, 2011
4:04 pm

What’s additionally funny about a “union” of millionaires is, if Payton Manning is such a “union guy,” shouldn’t he want all players, or at least all QBs to make the exact same salaries based upon length of service, not on talent or on who works the hardest, or is the most talented?

Payton should have the same salary as, say, Kyle Orton, right?

I mean, he’s all for the union . . .

PHIL

March 3rd, 2011
4:04 pm

OH AND I THOUGHT OBAMA WAS GOING TO CURE EVERYTHING JIFF

Yep

March 3rd, 2011
4:04 pm

I have to go with STW. I hardly watch NFL anymore because it seems to me that he players are all about getting “their” stats and “their” money. Most of the players in the NFL would either be in prison or working for $10 an hour if they did not have these jobs. The owners do take all the risk and are forced to pay these wages to the players to remain competitive. I will guarantee this. If the owners were to bust this union and declare a straight wage compensation based on tenure or stats benchmarked somewhere in the neighborhood of, let’s say, 350k, every one of these “stars” would be playing anyway because theere is NO WAY they could earn this much money anywhere else!

I hear you

March 3rd, 2011
4:05 pm

Joey just because I don’t watch foxnews does not make me a liberal. It just means I can think for myself and I’m not a delusional yes man who is filled with hate.

PHIL

March 3rd, 2011
4:05 pm

ITS BEEN REPORTED WITHOUT THE GOVT ADJUSTMENT UNEMPLOYMENT IS 10.3%-GREAT JOB OBAMA