Please, no celebrating. The commissioner, the owners, the NFL’s chief counsel — they all spent way too much time patting each other on the back Thursday night. We heard things like “incredible effort” and “good for the game” and, this gem from Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, “This is a journey that began in May of 2008. …”
Journey? I think the Israelites spent less time wandering through the desert.
Please, no congratulations, no balloon or tearful embraces. The NFL owners finally gave approval to a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. Assuming the players union votes to recertify and then ratifies the new agreement — and they’ll lose the benefit of the doubt from 99 percent of the free world if they don’t — the NFL lockout finally will be over.
So it only will have taken 38 months to reach a new deal. In the process, they damaged their product (at least in the short term), dumped on fans and, worst of all, made low-wage, front-office staff employees pay the price for their fictional financial crisis. A silly rich men’s war.
“The best thing for our fans is they won’t have to hear about labor-management relations for 10 years,” Giants owner John Mara said.
True. But before you celebrate the impending opening of training camps and your Fantasy League draft, think about how all of this could have and should have been. Think about this offseason. The draft lacked the usual buzz and joy. The usual March fun of free agency and roster shuffling was pushed back. The NFL, a relatively bullet-proof enterprise, saw its reputation dinged. There has been more than five non-productive months since the Super Bowl was played.
People lost jobs, or paychecks. A multi-billion-dollar enterprise couldn’t settle its collective bargaining issues in a reasonable amount of time, so it took it out on the $42,000 secretaries sitting in the office building.
Here’s something you probably don’t know: Nearly every Falcons’ employee (non-players) was forced to take a cut in salary in the spring, most in the form of a two-week furlough.
You know when they’ll celebrate the new CBA? When they get their money back.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank’s net worth was $1.3 billion as of March, according to Forbes magazine. This isn’t to pick on Blank. I’m just trying to add some perspective. NFL owners want new stadiums, new video boards and new martini bars. Meanwhile, staffers have been taking items out of their Kroger basket.
When asked Thursday about the league-wide furloughs, salary cuts and even layoffs, Blank initially gave a vague response.
“Every club has handled the situation differently,” he said. “From what I understand, there’s been situations that have been handled with great care and respect … and to the great sensitivity to the difficult times from an economic standpoint that most people are in today. Assuming there’s ratification and the lockout is over, I think clubs will make adjustments that are in line with their own values and philosophies.”
Does that include the Falcons?
So will you pay back lost wages?
“Well, that’s a personal thing for me and our associates.”
The past two days have played out like a cartoon. Players were expected to vote Wednesday night on whether to accept the new CBA. They stalled. That irritated owners, who would’ve preferred being given the go-ahead so that they could vote early Thursday and throw a victory parade. (From Blank earlier on Thursday: “The owners can ratify the deal first and have the players approve it. It’s not what we expected, but if that’s the process, that’s the process.”)
But this mutated into a major ego battle, a glorified game of chicken. The NFLPA’s DeMaurice Smith fired a counter-productive warning shot over the bow from Washington, saying nobody should consider union re-certification an automatic. Owners stalled. They broke for “10 minutes,” which turned into a buffet dinner (you’ll pay for that). Finally, they voted. It was 31-0 with one abstention (the Raiders, of course).
Blank said earlier, “I’d be disappointed, like 330 million people in America, if we didn’t get it done today.”
But silliness ensued, time passed, day turned into night. It appears the lockout is over. That’s good. But it shouldn’t have taken this long, and this isn’t worthy of a celebration.
By Jeff Schultz