Fans Will Blame Players for NFL Lockout
Yesterday, brought news that the owners filed a complaint with the NLRB claiming that the Players Association was engaging in unfair bargaining practices. As part of that complaint, the NFL cited the player union's threat to decertify in the event the owners lock out the players.
The decertification by the NFLPA would mean the NFL would be in danger of antitrust charges because Collective Bargaining Agreements countenance some forms of antitrust activity, the antitrust exemption, so long as that antitrust activity is bargained for by two parties acting in good faith. Remove that exemption and the NFL could face serious issues when 32 teams are acting in concert with one another.
Is your head spinning from that information?
I know it is.
And things are only going to get more complicated from here. That means that fans, who just want the damn games played, are going to tune out the day-to-day babble surrounding the negotiations.
Those details will be significant to a tiny minority of the overall fan base. And the information, misinformation, accusations and counter-accusations are going to be flying so fast and furious from both sides that you'll need a law degree and 20 years of labor relations practice under your belt, to actually be able to parse the significant information. Nope, instead of enmeshing themselves in the details the fans are going to blame someone if come September there are no games.
And I'll tell you who eventually is going to end up being blamed for the impasse by the vast majority of fans -- the players.
That's the way these situations always go down, the fans blame the players. Why? Because ultimately most fans are incapable of evenly apportioning blame and break down the stalemate into the simplest of equations. The labor, i.e. the players, is making a lot more money than I am to play a game. I bust my ass to make 50K and take my kids to their overpriced games, buy their jerseys, and show up to pay more money for autographs. Hell, give me 100K and I'd be ecstatic to play a game for a living.
Why can't they, the average fan will ask, just get out there and pay the damn game? They're overpaid already and now they want more?
Most fans, in other words, think about the absence of games from the position of labor. That's because the vast majority of us are laborers, that is we work for someone. The players have a direct connection to the team, they are the faces of the franchise, they are the ones that the fans won't see jogging back onto the field come September. The league owners are rich and powerful men far removed from the calculations of most fans. Indeed, most fans never even make the next step in the calculus of the lockout equation. Namely, the players aren't asking for money that doesn't exist. The players are asking for more of the money that the owners otherwise pocket.
But when fans clamor that players are overpaid the other side of the equation is never followed. That is, no one in sports ever accuses the owners of being overpaid. After all, every dollar that the owners don't have to pay the players stays in the hands of the franchise. So most fans are simplistic in their analysis of lockout and strike situations -- if you doubt this consider how many fans would even be aware of the distinction between a lockout and a strike -- and the owners know this simplicity of analysis redounds to their benefit.
The longer the lockout goes on, the more the pressure grows on the players to take the field and play.
And the more the pressure grows on the players the weaker their bargaining position becomes. DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFLPA, knows this. It's why the pressure is ratcheting up now, why both sides are cursing at one another, canceling meetings, posturing for battle far in advance of the 2011 season. The players need to get a deal done before the season gets here. And the owners know this as well, know that they don't have to give in now because the longer the lockout drags on the more their position grows in strength. (This isn't even considering the difficulty of Smith's position in holding together a fractious assemblage of nearly 1700 players with divergent interests and contract situations. In contrast, every owner has a ton in common with his 31 other owners).
The visceral connection that fans feel with players' ultimately undercuts the players own position. In labor squabbles between millionaires and billionaires, fans consistently blame the millionaires for the lack of games. Because they can imagine being players easier than they can imagine being owners. That failure of imagination, the inability of fans to pass the buck up the chain of command, means that the owners get a free pass. The laborers turn on the labor, and the rich get richer.
It's the new American way.
Follow Clay Travis on Twitter here. With All That and a Bag of Mail back on a weekly basis, you can e-mail him questions at Clay.Travis@gmail.com.