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The Average Fan & the CBA Dispute

By Lou Bouris
February 20, 2011
As all of Steeler Nation knows, there is currently an ongoing labor dispute between the NFL Players and the owners. I thought it would be a good idea to write an article detailing what exactly is in dispute, what each side is fighting for, and who I think has the advantage and whether or not there is a right or wrong side in the dispute.
Like I said, I tried. I’ve started three or four times, and each time ended up deleting everything I just wrote. Maybe I found it too boring. I mean, do Steeler fans really want to read about anti-trust laws, collective bargaining, and non-binding arbitration? Seriously, it was putting me to sleep just trying to write it, no way anybody would read that stuff without nodding off and hitting their forehead on their keyboards.
Or maybe the central point both sides are arguing over is one that the average fan just doesn’t want to hear about.
The central point of discontent between the owners and the players is how they split up the revenue pot each season. Right now the owners take a cut from the pot right off the top to be used for expenses such as stadium upgrades and marketing to expand the league. They then split the remainder of the pot with the players, with the players receiving roughly 59% of that pot.
The revenue pot that they are fighting over last season was 9 billion dollars. Yes, that is Billion with a ‘B.’ The cut that the owner’s take off the top was 1 billion dollars. Yes, once again Billion with a ‘B’. You can do the math if you want to figure out how many billions (with a ‘B’) each side would then receive from the splitting of the revenue pot.
Wow, the classic case of Millionaires vs. Billionaires in fight over billions (everybody say it with me…with a ‘B’) of dollars. Is one side more deserving of a bigger cut than the other? Is there a right side to root for in coming out on top of this fight? I could see legitimate arguments for both sides.
The players are obviously deserving of as big of chuck of the revenue that they can get. They put their bodies on the line every Sunday, and risk major injury every time they step onto the field. The average NFL career is just about 4 years long, so they have to make as much money as they can while they are playing. They never know when their careers might come to an end, because any play basically could be their last. With no guaranteed money in their contracts, except their signing bonus of course, a career ending injury means no more paychecks from the league. With the owners talking about adding 2 more regular season games, which is yet another point of contention between the two sides, the players believe, and rightfully so, that their salary should be raised for their play in 18 games instead of 16. Hard to argue with that.
On the other hand, I can understand the owner’s assertion that since expenses are going up, that they need to fix the current business model so that their revenues continue to increase to cover those expenses. (See, it was sentences like that one that made me delete all my other attempts at this) The owners are the ones who put their own money on the line when buying the teams, and are spending their own money on players salaries and expenses. Isn’t that the definition of Capitalism? They are the ones taking the risk with their money, so shouldn’t they receive as much of the revenue that their business makes as possible? The company that I work for has tripled in size the past couple years and I am sure the guy who started it up is making millions, does that mean I am entitled to a bigger cut of the company’s revenue? I’d love to say yes, but it doesn’t work that way. He started his company with his own money, and now he is reaping the benefits as well as risking losing everything with the business decisions he has to make. I know, it might not be very close analogy, but I think you get the point.
Of course, there are other issues that both sides are talking about. A rookie salary cap, the 18 game season, medical and pension plans for veterans and retired players. All important points, but in the grand scheme of their discussions, all take a backseat to the splitting of the 9 billion (yes, still with a ‘B’) revenue pot.
Maybe they should sit back and think of where that 9 billion (again…’B’) came from. It came from fans who live paycheck to paycheck, with hopefully enough money left after bills to buy a jersey or a hat. Fans that shell out their hard earned cash to go to maybe one game a year. With tickets, parking, and concessions through the roof, one game could easily run around a couple hundred dollars. The average salary for an average Joe in 2010? Around $43,000. The average NFL salary? $770,000. The average owner’s income? Well, their books aren’t open to the public, but I would bet my average salary that it is well above both of those numbers.
Remember us? The average fan? Maybe they should invite an average fan from each team to sit at the negotiating table with both sides to bring a dose of reality to the discussions. Just a thought…
My opinion? Who cares. Just lock the two sides in a room and don’t let them out until an agreement is reached. Keep the details out of the press, we don’t need to know how many billions (ummm, ‘B’) each side has to “settle” for. The average fan doesn’t want to hear how hard each side has it, they just want to see football come the fall.
Of course, contract negotiations like this is much like making sausage. You like the way it turns out in the end, but you REALLY don’t want to watch the process. Just get it done, make your billions (last time…a ‘B’) and let us average fans enjoy our little break from reality every Sunday.

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