Rumors that NFL owners will choose to opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement set in March of 2006 seem to be coming true. That agreement set guidelines so that if either the owners or the players didn't like their position they would have the option of opting out of the contract. Several owners are suggesting their organizations have become "cash strapped" because of the current arrangement.
It is becoming clear that the disagreement has become prevalent within the "small-market" owners in the NFL. These owners have a problem with the current revenue sharing program where 60 percent of total revenue is given to the players. Owners complain that is too “one-sided.” It is boiling down to several owners thinking they deserve the right to all the money made by their team. It’s their investment right? I mean they put in all the money and all the work.
In the current labor agreement teams have a salary cap of 116 million dollars. If the owners do choose to opt out of the current agreement there is a possibility of an uncapped season in 2010 and no draft in 2011. This means that the teams electing to pay players less today are the same teams that wouldn't be able to afford high end free agents in an uncapped market. The funny thing here is, small-market owners are about to opt out of an agreement that would help their teams in the future. How much of a fighting chance do small-market teams have in 2011 of getting either top ranked college prospects with no draft, or legitimate free agents with no money?
It's unfortunate to me that there are owners who choose not to acknowledge why their team makes money. Two reasons: fans and players. Fans want to see great athletes compete. Fans don’t give a shit who is paying for the team, they just want a team. As a kid my idol was John Elway and the Broncos were my team. I watched closely as John led miraculous comebacks week after week. I cried when they won the Super Bowl. I could have rattled off the entire roster in numerical order yet one person that would not have come to mind, the owner. Taking this a step further, as a current NFL player, I couldn't rattle off more than 6 or 7 current owners.
What it all comes down to is money and the NFL is a money making machine. It has quickly become the most watched and talked about professional sport in America. Its popularity keeps fans entertained year round. Free-agency, the Combine, Draft Day, Mini-Camp, and Training Camp have become as exciting for some people as Game day. Fans can't get enough of their team and because of this revenue in the NFL has sky-rocketed. Yet owners don’t get their fair share?
The NFL is still the richest sports league in the world (the average team is worth $957 million, 7% more than last year) as well as the most profitable (mean operating income in 2006 was $17.8 million on $204 million in revenue).
The 2006 season marked the beginning of six-year contract extensions with the three major networks--a $3.7 billion deal with CBS, a $4.3 billion deal with Fox and a $3.6 billion deal with NBC--that award the NFL with an average of $2 billion a year until 2011.
Do the owners realize that in this profession only a very select group of people can do what we do? There are less than 2000 players on NFL rosters every year. This is my fifth year on the job and I can make one easy conclusion. It is extremely difficult to be great in the NFL. Fans pay to come out because they like to watch great players. The NFL is an enormous entertainment industry and the Players Union easily recognizes that. The Union doesn't feel like what we get isn’t fair, but that the money has been earned by the players.
In my personal opinion an owner should be someone who is truly proud of his team. They should be proud of their players. An NFL team should be more than an investment to its owners. Winning and losing should be more about pride than the money. Unfortunately, as we can sadly see by what is happening with this potential opt out is that owners care much more about the money than having a successful team.