Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I Don't Get the NFL

So, in case you don't follow sports, there's an ongoing labor dispute between the NFL and its players. It's a fairly standard dispute: the union wants more money, and the business says it can't afford to pay more. This lead to a lockout, which led to the union decertifying (in name only), which led to a lawsuit by the players, which led to a court order to lift the lockout (presumably along the argument that players should be allowed to work, although clearly influenced by the current pro-union federal executive administration). All of this, though, leads me to wonder: what's the big downside for the NFL?

The NFL has a television contract, from which it derives most of its revenue. Previously, this was contractually guaranteed to be partially distributed to the players, in a fixed ratio set forth in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. However, with the union dissolved, doesn't this leave the league free to distribute the revenue however they see fit (assuming they can uphold their end of the contract, ie: put on the games)? Moreover, they should be more free now than ever before to craft whatever rules they want for the teams and the league, now that there's one less interested party at the table.

Want a salary cap? Easily done; just work it out among the owners and come to an agreement. Want to pay players less? Also easily done; work it into the agreement among the owners. There's no player's union to collectively bargain, so owners should be free to impose whatever employment terms they want. The league can create whatever rules they want for the sport and the operation of the teams, and teams can hire players as they see fit (in accordance with whatever rules the owners agree to). How is this not a solid win for the league?

The whole point of the player's union and CBA is to get more benefits and revenue for the players by refusing to work as a group unless demands are met. If the players want to not operate as a union, but rather as individual employees, how is this bad for the business? Just write the rules, craft an agreement among the owners, and start hiring whoever is willing to work. What's the problem?

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