|05-22-2008, 06:31 PM|
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CBA issue has a simple solution
Tuesday the NFL entered new territory, with the owners correctly voting to void the final two years of the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the players association. It was the right move, despite the fact it has many scared there could be a work stoppage or Ė even worse - replacement players in 2011.
Both of those scenarios would be bad for the NFL, but throwing the current CBA in the garbage is hardly a death knell for the league. In truth, it could be the best thing to happen to the NFL since the 1970 merger with the AFL.
There isnít any doubt, however, that money is at the heart of the dispute. The owners are upset on three fronts.
First, the owners donít feel the players deserve nearly 60 percent of their revenues. To be honest I canít blame them. The players get the lionís share of the money, and out of the remaining 40 percent the owners are expected to pay their coaching staff, scouting staff, management, stadium workers and all office personnel.
As is the case in Kansas City, ownership is also responsible for a portion of stadium improvements. Chiefs Chairman of the Board Clark Hunt received nearly $375 million from taxpayers to rebuild Arrowhead Stadium, but at the moment, Hunt and his family have committed at least another $125 million (depending on overruns) to finish construction.
The second point is that owners feel like theyíre being ripped off when forced to pay huge signing bonuses to players who are convicted of crimes or continue to violate league rules. The case in point is Leavenworth celebrity Michael Vick, who is currently serving time in jail for his involvement in the dog scandal.
Should the owners not be reimbursed for the signing bonuses while players like Vick and Ricky Williams damage teams and the public perception of the league? Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right. Players need to remember that.
The last item of frustration for the owners is the mind-boggling salaries that first-round draft picks sign year in and year out. There is a rookie salary pool, but no rookie cap. The next CBA should include one.
The NBA has one, and it works. It hasnít prevented flash-in-the-pan college players from jumping ship to the NBA and becoming millionaires overnight.
Privately, several players have told me they see it as unfair that rookies with zero NFL experience come into the league and earn megabucks before theyíve played a single down.
Already this year, two players - Michigan tackle Jake Long and Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan - have received five and six-year contracts respectively that will earn them guaranteed dollars in the $30-35 million range. Itís irresponsible spending, and even the NFLPA knows it.
Now to the heart of the matter - there is one underlying reason that made the owners void the final two years of the CBA. They want to break the union, and they want NFLPA President Gene Upshaw out.
The owners wonít say it publicly, but there are plenty of players who are upset with the way Upshaw has handled the union since the CBA was signed. There is already movement to remove him from his position. Some believe heíll end up bringing down the union because he favors the upper echelon while sacrificing the other 90 percent.
But here are the facts - Upshaw is not going to give one single dime back to the owners. Not because itís bad business, but because of ego.
Iím not going to defend the owners, however, because itís obvious that some of them have been irresponsible in dishing out hundreds of millions dollars in a single season via free agency and the NFL Draft.
The Oakland Raiders doled out nearly $160 million in contracts this offseason, and if you add the ridiculous contract that JaMarcus Russell signed last offseason, that figure easily surpasses $200 million. All this for a team thatís likely to finish somewhere close to 4-12 again in 2008.
The situation, as bad as it is, can be fixed. There are simple compromises that could potentially end this stalemate in one face-to-face meeting.
The NFLPA must be committed to every member. That means instituting a rookie salary cap that rewards the top 16 players. Every other draftee should receive a five-percent increase based on the previous yearís selections. No exceptions. This would hopefully insure that all drafted players report to training camp on time and in shape.
Second, the NFL must expand its regular season, but not to the 17-game schedule that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell proposed Tuesday. Rather, 18 games.
The players hate the preseason, and who can blame them? Fans also get exploited because season ticket holders are forced to pay extra for games that have no real meaning. So cut the preseason in half and give each team one extra game at home and on the road. Thatís fair.
Last but not least, the players have to give back. The owners, if they open up their books, should pay no more than 55 percent of their revenues to players. In addition, rosters should expand to 60, with the removal of the rule that allows only 45 players to dress.
The practice squad should expand from eight to 10 players. As one final gesture from the owners, they should allow players to become unrestricted free agents after five years of service instead of six.
In this arrangement, the NFLPA wins because they would have 70 players receiving NFL contracts per team. The owners also win, because even though they are paying more dollars to more players, they will be forced to practice more financial responsibility. It should also even out the playing field in free agency.
In the end, the dollars spent will be the same to some degree. The additional players on the roster will offset the four-percent reduction in revenue sharing, but the savings will come from rookies at the top end of the draft. That money can then be used to pay more deserving NFL players who deserve compensation.
Despite the rhetoric weíll hear over the next three years on this issue, there is a simple path to resolving the labor dispute. We could see an uncapped year in 2010 if both factions canít find a better way to share the wealth.
So, the owners are dug deep into their position while Upshaw is cemented in his. Both sides have a lot to lose, however. Even though the game is a cash cow and remains the heart and soul of American sports, both owners and players could lose if they arenít willing to do whatís right.
|05-22-2008, 06:42 PM||#3|
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The new players' agents have brainwashed their clients into thinking that the NFLPA dues is a tax, so much that the "old time" players are long forgotten.
"The practice squad should expand from eight to 10 players. As one final gesture from the owners, they should allow players to become unrestricted free agents after five years of service instead of six." -- Try four years. You're not young forever.
Good article, all the same.
"Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits." --Satchel Paige