I’ve seen a lot of articles out on the web about the dispute between the NFL owners (NFL) and the NFL players union (NFLPA) regarding negotiation of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The overwhelming theme with them all, they’re too complicated. I am going to share with you the major issues that the two sides are currently not budging on, and offer a little perspective on what to do about it. A little background first. The current CBA is set to expire next March. The two sides have until then to agree to terms on a new CBA, or the league owners will institute a lockout and there will be no football in 2011. Bear in mind that the TV contracts are guaranteed to the owners for 2011 whether they play or not. Now most think that something will happen before it comes to that point. The NFL is America’s most popular sport and is a 9 billion dollar a year industry. Everyone wants their football, owners and players included.
That being said, the owners decided to opt out of the current agreement primarily for financial reasons (what else?). The NFLPA wanted to extend the agreement as it is for another 5 years. That is also primarily for financial reasons (of course). The result is a 2010 season with no salary cap and nothing but questions moving forward.
Owners claim that 60% of the revenue annually is going directly to player contracts and bonuses. They want an 18% rollback. The NFLPA wants the owners to disclose their financial records to determine if those claims are accurate. They believe those numbers are exaggerated and do not want the current revenue split to change.
Solution: Compromise, it’s easy. Instead of rolling back the pay. Continue to pay the players what owners feel is too much and the players give the owners the two additional games on the schedule. (See below)
OWNER PROPOSED 18-GAME SCHEDULE
Everyone can agree that the product on the field during pre-season is sub par at best and owners claim that in some cases it costs more to host meaningless pre-season games than the revenue that they produce. They want to move to an 18-game schedule and eliminate two of the pre-season games without any changes to current contract structures. The NFLPA is very concerned about the long-term health risks, considering the current 16 game schedule is intensely grueling as it is. Especially, if there is no additional incentive.
Solution: If the owners want to expand to an 18 game schedule. Then they should compensate the players for the additional risk. Do not roll back the percentage of the revenue, and also expand the size of the roster so that the players that are “borderline” and would need 4 games in front of the coaching staff to warrant making the current 53 man roster, the ability to do it in two games. If you limit exposure, you have to allow for more players to have a shot. Additionally, if you play two more games, and generate more revenue, you should not cut that percentage to the players, they make you your money. Plus, two more games are two more high risk situations for severe injury.
ROOKIE WAGE SCALE
The NFL had originally proposed a rookie wage scale that would have affected this years draft, however, it was decided that the current scale would remain until the end of the current CBA. The proposed system would cap rookie contracts at three years, have a capped limit based on position and overall draft pick number. This scale would be separate from the regular salary cap and only affect rookies. The idea is to protect owners from paying huge salaries and bonuses to unproven college players.
Solution: This is a no-brainer to me. Both sides should be in favor on this condition, the money saved from rookie contracts should go directly to veteran player re-signings. Proven players should be worth more than untested rookies with nothing but workouts and projections under their belt. As for the rookies, I would think that aside from the highly paid first round picks, anyone else would be happy to get away from their rookie contract, especially if they have proven their worth quickly. Make these contracts three years, even give an option for four, to protect a guy that may have suffered an injury. Give them a modest base salary and add lucrative incentives in the contract that reward the players that live up to their potential and weed out the busts without costing owners millions that could go to players that are actually worth it. After three years, players can re-sign or pursue free agency at market value. It’s ridiculous to commit 30% of the year’s salary cap to drafted rookies. The current system cripples bad teams that draft high every year. The pick isn’t worth the cost. A number one pick should help, not hurt you.
PLAYER MISCONDUCT DECISIONS
Roger Goodell under the current CBA has basically full power, meaning judge, jury, and execution, when it comes to decisions on player misconduct. The NFLPA wants to add an additional position or committee where appeals can go. Goodell currently hears appeals on decisions he’s made. The union argues that the current process is unfair and there is nothing to check and balance the commissioner’s judgement. The owners want the ability to recoup player bonuses that have already been paid if a player is found guilty of violating the conduct policy and will thus, get suspended from the league.
Solution: Again, fairly easy. Make it a more thorough process to collect information. Have some type of impartial appeals committee, my suggestion is have representatives from the NFL, the NFLPA, and a chairman voted on by both groups to handle appeals. Additionally, if a player is found to be in violation, and loses in an appeal, he should be held responsible for returning his bonus money to the organization in addition to serving the suspension and applying for reinstatement. I also think that reinstatement should be eligible for appeal as well, in the interest of fairness.
There is a group of former players from the Hall of Fame Committee that has voiced opinion on extending players ability to attain health benefits after playing in the NFL. The current policy is 5 years of health care for every 3 years played.
Solution: Give them more treatment. The average career is only 3-4 years anyway, and the 5 years they have now is not going to last very long after playing days are over. You could even make it a cost sharing system. Where the longer you play, the less you would have to come out-of-pocket for care. You could give 2 years of care for every 1 year played and after that benefit has expired, give players the option of continuing the care at a reasonable cost. Again the players generate hundreds of millions in revenue, it would be nice to make sure they can walk beyond their fifties.
Everyone pretty much agrees it’s necessary. Here’s the problem, the league has its’ steroid policy firmly in place, but there is no HGH (Human Growth Hormone) test in existence currently that is both proven accurate and non-invasive. The NFLPA doesn’t want players to have to undergo getting blood drawn for regular testing on top of the fact that it may no be 100% accurate. Another matter is a good test for codeine. The league does not test for it right now, but in recent news, players from football and other sports admitted to having tried a mixture containing codeine that has become a popular drink on the street.
Solution: Be open with the research and the facts about the HGH test. Let’s find out if it’s accurate. If it is, then players need to deal with getting a needle. As far as codeine, it can be tested with a urine sample, same as steroids, add it to the panel.
We’ve heard a lot of scary talk about how far off the negotiations are and how there is no progress. No side is going to move and lockout is imminent. I really don’t think that they are so far off that a deal can’t be reached. It gets over dramatized in any sport when labor is the subject of conversation. There are plenty of smart people on both sides, and if a guy like me can come up with quick, simplified solutions to the problems, then they certainly can come up with the harder details before next March.