The collective bargaining agreement negotiations between the NFL and NFL Players Association are at a complete standstill, all over a misinterpretation this week. The confusion, reported on Wednesday, stemmed from the distribution of revenue, with the NFLPA proposing a 51-49 split of “all revenue,” not “total revenue” as before. The owners read that as total revenue, the system that’s already in place which gives the owners a $1 billion credit before splitting the revenue between the two sides. With the meetings off to a bad start, the decision was made to kill the negotiations for the foreseeable future.
At this point, a lockout is all but certain, though the length of any potential lockout is unknown. The owners have threatened to lock the players out when the current CBA expires on March 4, and appear to be preparing for a lengthy stalemate.
It may seem an offseason lockout isn’t a big deal and that fans will only hit a breaking point should it have an affect on games this fall. However, it is a big deal, and will throw offseason moves into a holding pattern, leaving free agents unable to sign and teams unable to conduct the typical offseason workouts, training camps and other activities. The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to both assemble a team and get that team ready to play.
What we have is a giant game of chicken with billions of dollars hanging in the balance. The NFL is relying on the players to blink first at the thought of not getting paid or being able to sign contracts. The union is relying on the NFL to realize sponsorships, ticket sales and other revenue streams won’t come rolling in should there be a lockout and cancellation of the season, forcing them to come crawling back.
It’s going to take one side blinking for an agreement, and neither side looks to be close to that point. Instead, both sides are waging a campaign in the media, with the NFLPA using social media and large-scale advertisements urging the NFL to let them play and the commissioner symbolically reducing his salary while doing his talking in a public way. The thought is that the court of public opinion will rule here and whichever side can convince the masses they’re right will hold negotiating leverage. The problem, though, is that neither side can seem to gain any ground.
Pro Football Talk has a primer about what this all means and how each scenario can play out. While a lockout is likely, it’s not yet a sure-thing, and anything can happen in the next month. However, it’s not looking good right now, and we should all be prepared for life without football for an extended period of time.
For more on the negotiations, check out our NFL lockout StoryStream.