Last night I got an e-mail from Roger Goodell that I picked up after watching Battle: Los Angeles. I wondered what my old friend the NFL Commissioner wanted to tell me, presumably on the QT. The message was both personal and shocking:
Dear NFL Fan,
Well, OK, it wasn’t personal at all. Doesn’t the NFL know how to mail-merge their e-mail messages to personalize a greeting? What is this, 1998?
When I wrote to you last on behalf of the NFL, we promised you that we would work tirelessly to find a collectively bargained solution to our differences with the players’ union. Subsequent to that letter to you, we agreed that the fastest way to a fair agreement was for everyone to work together through a mediation process. For the last three weeks I have personally attended every session of mediation, which is a process our clubs sincerely believe in.
Unfortunately, I have to tell you that earlier today the players’ union walked away from mediation and collective bargaining and has initiated litigation against the clubs.
I checked this allegation from Dear NFL Commissioner when I got home, and sure enough:
NFL star Tom Brady and several other players filed an antitrust class action against the league Friday in Minnesota, only hours after the NFL Players Association decertified itself amid failed negotiations.
Exercising the so-called nuclear option, the NFLPA renounced its status as the collective bargaining representative of NFL players, a move that allows players to sue the league under antitrust laws.
Within hours, MVP quarterback Brady and several other players sued the league for running an allegedly illegal price-fixing scheme — in the form of the league salary cap — and other purported antitrust violations.
And now the league has rebutted the charges of a price-fixing trust by, er, all agreeing to lock out the employees:
The NFL officially announced a lockout of players by team owners following the move by the players’ union to dissolve themselves and pursue action against the league in the courts, the league said in a statement on Saturday.
A lockout effectively closes down the league’s activities and will halt any trade activities and any other dealings between players and clubs.
It’s well worth noting that the NFLPA didn’t seem to have a problem with price-fixing trusts when they got paid handsomely from the proceeds in the last collective bargaining agreement. Closed-shop unions that demand minimum salaries with fixed steps can also be described as a “price-fixing trust,” at least in a literal sense. And it’s also well worth noting that the league has threatened a “nuclear option” of their own for months with a lockout if players didn’t meet their demands for more off-the-top money for facilities and a longer schedule for an already grueling football season.
So now we have billionaires locking out multimillionaires who refuse to play a game that generates fortunes for all involved … and both sides want the courts and the fans to blame the other side for the problem and solve issues that even the people who have the most at stake can’t resolve. Don’t expect much sympathy from the fans who shell out the money that wealthy athletes and owners want to tear from each others’ bank accounts. If the NFL fumbles away the 2011 season, fans will simply find other places to spend that money, and more grateful recipients for those entertainment dollars.
And that experience may have some of us wondering why we bothered to support spoiled multimillionaires and billionaires in the first place.