The NFL and the NFLPA: The Significance of the Current Collective Bargaining Process and a Collection of Relevant Legal and Ethical Issues (Part 4: The 18-Game Season and Rookie Salaries.)

 

Tom Brady has expressed his concern over an 18 game season.

The 18-Game Schedule and Rookie Salaries

a) The Owners’ Perspective

To football fans anywhere, two more regular season games would sound like a gift from the Almighty.  Owners are well aware of this and hope to grow revenue by expanding the schedule to 18 regular season games.  Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian considers the 18-game season an inevitable outcome of the collective bargaining process (Associated Press, Colts’ Bill Polian: NFL’s 18-game Season is “Fait Accompli,” 2010).  “I think that the owners, and principally the commissioner, have decided that it’s the way to go, and so the debate, such as it was, is over,” said Bill Polian to the Associated Press (2010).  Both games will be the result of a swap: essentially, two preseason games will be eliminated and two regular season games added to the official schedule.  NFL Spokesman Greg Aiello wrote once that 18-game football seasons are nothing new, since the CFL and USFL played those schedules before, and Goodell agrees (Lobdell, 2010).  The owners’ argument holds well against the union’s contention since players already play four preseason games that do not count in the win/loss column; by making two of those four games count, any resulting player injuries would not seem in vain.

Owners will not argue much with the union over rookie wages, since both sides agree that unproven players do not deserve to be among the highest-paid players in the league without taking their first NFL snap.  Essentially, team owners are pushing for a rookie salary cap without meeting significant union resistance (Labor is Focus at NFL Meeting, 2010).  Packers President and CEO Mark Murphy has seen his fair share of the spotlight since July 2010, since Green Bay is the only publicly owned team and required by law to publish their yearly accounting statements.  He contends that the current system is “unsustainable” and that rookie salaries are “another thing we’d like to address in collective bargaining” (La Canfora, Pack Thriving and Suffering, Depending on Who’s reading Ledger, 2010).  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has long believed that rookie wages are “ridiculous… money is going to a player that never makes it in the NFL,” and that “the money should go to people who perform” (Associated Press, Goodell: Rookie Pay Scale “Ridiculous,” 2008).

b)            Perspectives from the Players’ Union

The Miami Dolphins' Jake Long became the league's highest paid offensive lineman before taking his first snap in the NFL.

 

The Green Bay Packers’ net income rose by about 30% to $5.2 million in the fiscal year ending March 31 [2010],” according to Bloomberg.com’s Aaron Kuriloff (2010).  In the same report, however, Kuriloff reveals that operating profit declined by more than half: from $20.1 million to $9.8 million (2010).  Nevertheless, “it’s 1/32nd of the financial information we’ve requested in response to their demand that we give back $1 billion and increase our injury risk by playing two additional games,” according to NFLPA President Kevin Mawae (La Canfora, Pack Thriving and Suffering, Depending on Who’s Reading the Ledger, 2010).  Two more games-worth of added risk of injury and decreased overall pay seems like a difficult proposition despite losses reported by one of thirty-two NFL teams.  Quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots and Linebacker Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens also disagree with a two game extension.

“Don’t get me wrong, I love the game of football.  If fans want to show their love, they should let everyone know that we are not machines,” said Lewis regarding an expanded season (NFLPlayers.com, 2010).  He added, “swapping two preseason games for two end-of-season games – when players already play hurt – comes at a huge cost for the player and the team” (NFLPlayers.com, 2010).  Tom Brady complemented Lewis’ position and stated, “The long-term impact this game has on our bodies is well documented.  Look no further than the players that came before we did” (NFLPlayers.com, 2010).  Brady finished by adding the fact that a player must play three years if he expects to receive post-career health care for just five years (NFLPlayers.com).  In an 18 October 2010 Sports Illustrated article, Peter King points out that the NFLPA wants owners to modify post-career health care plans if the season is extended, since players would play six extra games over three years to earn five years of post-career health care (King, 2010, p. 44-46).  The NFLPA also expects a 15% annual pay increase if the season is expanded to cover wages for two extra games.

Finally, the NFLPA’s position on rookie salaries does not much differ from the owners’ stance.  “They need to do it like the NBA… Get a rookie salary cap, then let a guy play for three or four years and prove himself,” stated Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison in March 2010 (Dividing Line is Drawn, 2010).  In 2008, the Miami Dolphins drafted Jake Long from the University of Michigan – the five-year, $30 million deal made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league (Dividing Line is Drawn, 2010).

Cam Suarez-Bitar.






 

Happy New Year!!!!

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