NFL lockout nears end but this is no time to celebrate

Here are three guys not worried about their next paycheck: Arthur Blank, Jerry Jones and Roger Goodell. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Arthur Blank, Jerry Jones, Roger Goodell aren't worried about their next paycheck. (Curtis Compton)

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?

“Yes.”

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

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

91 comments Add your comment

Feeanch

July 21st, 2011
8:52 pm

Erik

July 21st, 2011
8:54 pm

First!! Go Falcons!!

CONservative Johnson

July 21st, 2011
8:55 pm

CBA isn’t agreed to. The owners have just tried to roll the players. This could get ugly . . .

CONservative Johnson

July 21st, 2011
8:56 pm

Mooch needs to take his personal politics and get them off the NFL Network . . .

Heath

July 21st, 2011
9:10 pm

$42,000 for a secretary?

X Men

July 21st, 2011
9:29 pm

I don’t think it “mutated into a major ego battle,” Jeff. I think it started out that way on day one.

gcs

July 21st, 2011
9:43 pm

When Billionaires fight Millionaires, who loses? The Thousandaires and Hundredaires.

.

shankit

July 21st, 2011
9:43 pm

Too bad they are reaching a settlement, was looking
forward to watching the Dawgs on Sunday afternoon.

Juice

July 21st, 2011
9:43 pm

Con…
For what the players make….the owners could “roll” me anytime…..

Jeff …… please you have to be smarter that this…..

JSS

July 21st, 2011
9:44 pm

First they (he owners) wanted the NFLPA as a union wiped from the face of the earth. Now, the cornerstone of the owners position is the need for a re-certified bargaining partner? Now that is irony in full effect…

ryan

July 21st, 2011
9:46 pm

This is just going drag on and on i am pretty much at the point were i am sick of there owners and players speaking the players they are getting a lot in the deal less ota’s less preseason games Vets getting lot more money than rookies which they wanted workman’s comp and retired players benefits how can you not like this deal lets play some football please .

Mac

July 21st, 2011
9:51 pm

Shenanigans!

CONservative Johnson

July 21st, 2011
9:54 pm

Juice, us being jealous of how much money they’re making has nothing to do with it. Apparently, the owners are breaking federal law by trying to force the players to re-form their union on the owners’ time.

And the owners aren’t just getting money from a tree. The players’ work is making them money . . .

ryan

July 21st, 2011
10:01 pm

Just want them play football this almost like the debt crisis going on DC .

Parade of Knuckleheads

July 21st, 2011
10:03 pm

`
The NFL owners handled the situation with great sensitivity to the difficult times from an economic standpoint that most people are in today.
.

Parade of Knuckleheads

July 21st, 2011
10:10 pm

`
The NFL owners have joined the unfortunate segment of the populace.

real falcons fan

July 21st, 2011
10:38 pm

well fans,now we the fans can see truly the players and d smith,do not care about anything but greed and who wins the pissin match between nflpa and the owners! the players got a dear most workin folks would embrace 10 times over,and what do they do,nothing. franklin roosevelt once said when problems arise the 1st thing to do is the right thing.num.2 is the wrong thing and num. 3 is the worst thing doing nothing at all ! GO FALCONS

Rikus

July 21st, 2011
10:39 pm

Right on Jeff! Glad you were direct with Mr. Blank. Too bad he evaded the question. Nothing to celebrate until we have football back.

Oh Well

July 21st, 2011
10:48 pm

Jeff and his love for the Unions. Hell everbody is taking pay cuts not just people that work for football.All State works, teacher etc. I’m glad the owner stood up to the Union. Wish Blank would buy the Braves and Hawks. “Free enterprise”

RH in Dunwoody

July 21st, 2011
10:52 pm

yawn, who cares about all of that crap.. there will be football this fall and that is good news my brothers!

Real American

July 21st, 2011
10:53 pm

Well, Jeff, as like most libs, you outright said you don’t know much about the Bible. But, you do know sports, so I guess you will be O.K.,………………. for awhile……………………..

UnReal American

July 21st, 2011
11:03 pm

Michelle Bachmann for NFL Commissioner.

ToccoaBird

July 21st, 2011
11:07 pm

and then low and behold WE DON’T HAVE A DEAL…wish they would just cancel this year and get it over with….maybe they will want to work next year

Dr. Warren

July 21st, 2011
11:12 pm

Excellent point about the Falcon non-player employees, Jeff. I’m glad you put Blank on the spot and then pushed him on it. He brands himself as a super-mensch. Not paying them because of the lock-out is decidedly un-mensch-like. No one gets to be a billionaire by being naturally humanistic, and here’s a prime example.

Winks

July 22nd, 2011
12:25 am

Not convinced at all that this is a slam dunk. Methinks the players are going to cry “this is being rammed down our throats.” Too many issues left un-addressed, too much in the plan approved by owners that would call for the guts of the new CBA to pick up where the old left off.

I wouldn’t be shocked if this goes unfinished through the weekend, with significant changes being made to what the owners signed off on Thursday.

5150 UOAD

July 22nd, 2011
12:50 am

If it were a True Union then all Player with X number of years vested playing/ working the same job would be paid the same thing. A 1st yr QB gets $1.2 mil. while a 1st yr DT gets $1.13 mil. and so on and so on and so on. Screw the players. There a bunch of new ones coming out of colleges all of the country every year. Does a football player do more for the country and society than a Preacher, Teacher, Cop, or Fireman? Are any Pro Athletes more valuable than a Seal Team 6 member? They get about $ 80k a year for what they do. SCREW the Pro Athlete. Go dig a ditch or bag groceries for all I care. If these guys didn’t get an Education with their college scholarship then F…. them. No player is worth more than $2 mil. a year.

Jonkdawg

July 22nd, 2011
1:29 am

Let’s get it done!!! people…football time, can’t wait any longerrr!!

Mora less Petrino

July 22nd, 2011
1:37 am

The players don’t need to read the agreement! They should do like Nancy Pelosi and the healthcare bill. Just sign it and find out what’s in it later.

BooBoo

July 22nd, 2011
1:42 am

The last time I paid to watch a professional football game (NFL) was well before they built the Georgia dome. In the past 20 years I have only paid to watch the Braves lose to the Diamondbacks in the playoffs, simply because the national media was making fun of how Atlanta could only sell 25k tickets for a playoff game. I drove 800 miles to go to that game; and I wished I had that money back by the 5th inning. I would rather pay a dollar and personally play a game of strat-o-matic football on the football field, against some other joe fan or suzy citizen, than pay a c-note to watch groups of steroid boys pretend they are doing some kind of service to mankind by regularly striking and sueing for more money in one season (before ever playing a down) than most working people will make in a normal 20-year career. Besides, no one has ever explained why the benefits of a union is required when every swinging doug is individually represented by an agent. If they go union, get rid of individual bargaining and go with collective bargaining. Both is like the Marie Antoinette syndrome, “Let them eat filet mignon and then have cake for dessert, if the peasants don’t have bread.”

5150 UOAD

July 22nd, 2011
1:58 am

BooBoo
I love what you said.
It is either a UNION or Individuals. Not both. Let them use that Great college education they got to earn a living.

Ronald Reagan

July 22nd, 2011
2:02 am

Screw the players. They work for the owners. The owner of your local Subway pays his employees what he can afford to. This is no different. Who cares if the players disapprove of this deal. Send them the way of the air traffic controlers who messed with me. Planes still take off and land everyday, football would live on too without these jerks.

Sarfdawg

July 22nd, 2011
4:03 am

Jeff, your point about what the Falcons and every other team did to their front office staff is dead on. The owners expected the same amount of work and effort out of those guys, and they took a huge financial hit because of this mess. This story has been grossly understated.

Stinger2

July 22nd, 2011
5:18 am

Jeff: Is this mess really over? From the players initial reaction, I would say: Not yet.

legionaire

July 22nd, 2011
5:23 am

Jeff there are others who are getting screwed here. Think of the small business owners who do some business with the Falcons, food vendors, equipment and lockerroom supplies,. This greedy bunch of bastards are not as bad as the Glavine led strike that cancelled the World Series but they are close.

NFL fan

July 22nd, 2011
6:30 am

Now the Packers GM can get back to schooling TD on how to draft a full team of talent that can overcome massive injuries and still win the Superbowl.

NFL fan

July 22nd, 2011
6:33 am

Note that the Dan Fouts led Chargers, with all their offensive talent, never made it to the Superbowl. Defense win championships which those Chargers and today’s Falcons don’t have.

money walks

July 22nd, 2011
6:34 am

paying office staff in make work jobs when they are not needed: socialism.

cman

July 22nd, 2011
6:38 am

Only way to show them the fans distaste in this whole thing is to hit the million and billionaires where it hurts and boycott the games. Only ones that every get hurt are the middle class and below. Tired of hearing all the wining from owners how they don’t want to pay and the rich players about how they have to cut back during the lockout….cry me a F***in river.

Paddy

July 22nd, 2011
6:40 am

Does it ever really work when you try and pull a” fast-one” on somebody??

Cloudodust

July 22nd, 2011
6:40 am

In the game of football, I can’t see a huddle of 11 individuals hardly ever scoring a touchdown or winning a championship, or the collective body of ownership selling the product without talent. Good to read so many have the answer. Football was such a simple game before most of us were born.

But alas, the good ol’ days have been replaced by the Goodell days…

Larry

July 22nd, 2011
7:17 am

I reject both sides. The arrogance of the plutocrat owners; the towering hubris of the multi-millionaire players who are in a union but who each have their own individual lawyer, agent and business manager. Football is played with verve, passion, joy and pathos at every level prior to the NFL. Once they go pro, something very essential to the game is lost. The agreement is meaningless to me. I quit the NFL over twenty years ago when I saw the direction the “game” was taking.

Butts Wagner

July 22nd, 2011
7:26 am

$42,000 for a secretary?

seconded

Fanshafted

July 22nd, 2011
7:28 am

The fans get the shaft in the end again. And why do players need unions. Don’t they negotiate their own contracts? Thus they can be set up for life after football. Maybe the fans shouldn’t go to games or watch them. then let’s see where the owners and players get their money.

Alex

July 22nd, 2011
7:50 am

Jeff, I completely agree with you. I was a Falcons season ticket holder for 20 years, note “was”. I’m just fed up with all this garbage. I watched one Falcons game last year. I may not watch any this year. I’ve got better things to do on Sunday than waste three hours watching something that doesn’t matter. Frankly, I don’t care if they never play another game.

florida falcon

July 22nd, 2011
8:02 am

A 42k secretary better be doing alot more than answering my phone! (if you know what i mean)

Fish Bisch

July 22nd, 2011
8:13 am

Low Wage Front office people at 42,000? I’d like to know what you consider high wage. I don’t even sniff that 42,000 annually with a 4 year college degree in business management.

oldmike

July 22nd, 2011
8:22 am

Please all the “non-libs” on this blog save your tired rhetoric for some other venue. Why does it always come down to this? Get a bleepin’ life people.

Joshua Barlowe

July 22nd, 2011
8:23 am

I don’t know many secretarys who make $42k. Try $28k… Blank makes that much by breakfast every day. Disgusting.

Blackberry Cobbler

July 22nd, 2011
8:26 am

I’m ok with us just not having NFL football this season.

Maybe then both sides will come to their senses.

Chris

July 22nd, 2011
8:29 am

Hey, complain like you want. The players brought this on themselves. An owner gets into a businees to make money. I would like for any of you cowrokers to go to your boss and say, I want to see the company finances. Players don’t deserve squat, overpaid babies.