Former Kansas City Chiefs President/CEO/GM Carl Peterson thinks a work stoppage in the NFL is coming.
The players union (NFLPA) and the league (NFL owners) are facing a work stoppage because the last collective bargaining agreement between the sides is set to expire in March. That means we wouldn't be seeing football until they get a deal done. Both sides have publicly fired shots and the negotiations have seemed contentious at times, and non-existent at others.
The owners, Peterson says in an interview with Paul Domowitch of the Philly Daily News, feel the players' piece of the pie is too big. The players union, meanwhile, would prefer the status quo.
"I think there's going to be a work-stoppage," said Carl Peterson. "For how long? I don't know. But I think there will be some regular-season games in 2011 that [won't be played]. The question then becomes how deep into the season do you go before you have to say the season's over with? Is it 3 [weeks] or 6 or halfway? I don't know."
(Editor's note: At this point, the more likely scenario seems to be the players union decertifying and then suing the league under anti-trust laws so that this thing can be fought in the courts while the game is still played. But that's a whole other discussion for another day.)
Basically, the owners signed a collective bargaining agreement with the players union in 2006. Two years later, they opted out of the deal because they felt they were, well, getting screwed. The owners will say the players get 60% of all revenue while the NFLPA will point out that before that number is calculated a billion dollars is shaved off the top to help with the owners operating costs (stadiums).
Peterson (accurately) points out the time in which things will likely get desperate for the players in the event of a work stoppage.
"What I know, and what the owners know, is that you really don't make players start to feel it until they start missing regular-season game checks," Peterson said. "There's no financial downside for them until then. They don't lose anything in the offseason. They get something like $1,200 a game in the preseason, which is nothing for a 10-year veteran.
"But when your wife comes to you in September and says, 'Honey, where's that 1/17th of $3 million? It didn't come this week. And how about next week? Are we going to get that second 1/17th?' And they have to say, 'Honey, it's not happening,' then you find out how much resolve they really have."
Yup...the NFLPA has been telling its players to save half their paychecks. Unfortunately, it's hard to see every player doing that. Players get paid 17 times a year -- not year round -- so by the time the season starts in September, it's been nine months since they last had a paycheck. The owners may have more money in hand but they've also got a lot more stadiums. The days of 100 percent publicly financed stadiums aren't here anymore so the owners have a significant investment in the stadiums.
Translation: Both sides have a reason to avoid a work stoppage.
"DeMaurice competed with other people for that job and got it," Peterson said. "I just don't see him stepping up initially and saying, 'OK, guys. I'm your leader and we're going to take a step back. We're going to take it down to 56 percent.' I don't see that happening."
But...would he say that for more benefits to retired players? For post-career health care coverage? Maybe. It is a negotiation after all.
The players want to be protected in this incredibly dangerous game they play. I've talked to DeMaurice Smith before and he's a convincing man. He'll tell you there's a 100 percent chance of injury in this profession and unless you've played three games in three years you won't be getting post-career health care. He'll talk about meeting retired players who have trouble functioning today. The owners will point out that they're among the highest paid people in the world and that the owners are taking the financial risk with these stadiums.
I think Peterson is right on many of the points he brings up, particularly with the players' families. It's hard to see how long they can go without a paycheck. The younger guys, I imagine, can't go very long and maybe they'll crack.
Whatever happens, no football in 2011 would be my worst fear realized.