While progress was made at the meetings between the NFL labor committee and the union in a Boston suburb, both sides agree that there is a lot of work to be done.
At the conclusion of these intense meeting sessions, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said, “Someone asked me whether I was optimistic. I think we’re both optimistic when we have the right people in the room. We know we’re talking about the right issues and that we’re working hard to get it done. It is extremely complicated, it requires a lot of hard work by a lot of people, but we’re committed to getting something done and we’re going to keep working at it. Just to wrap up: we’re working hard, we understand the fans’ frustration, I know our players’ frustration. We’re going to keep working hard and try to make sure we get a deal done.”
Smith held a conference call with NFL player reps around the country to convey information received at the meetings, keeping the players informed as to what issues are on the table and making sure their frustration doesn’t get vented to the internet via social media.
Commissioner Roger Goodell has done an admirable job bringing all NFL owners onto the same page and moving forward in some tough negotiations. When both sides decided to call it quits for the day, Goodell said, “You obviously know we met over the last couple of days. We are under court order as far as what we can discuss so our comments will be brief. But obviously we’re all working hard. The players and owners were here over the last two days. De and I were here for the entire meetings also. And it’s complicated and it’s complex, but we’re working hard and we understand the fans’ frustration. But I think both of us feel strongly that we’re going to continue to work hard at it.”
I found one of Goodell’s comments extremely interesting. He said, “We are under court order as far as what we can discuss so our comments will be brief.” I guess it was OK to leak information a few days or weeks ago on the concepts and ideals or parameters of the current proposal to three writers who broke the information early this week? Maybe there is a light switch on the ability to comment.
The fans, in my opinion, have been patient while the current labor battle has been going on (it has passed the 100-day mark now). While the elements of a CBA agreement are being pounded out, let’s take a look at what is in jeopardy and who will be affected if this lockout is not resolved quickly.
The first signs that the lockout is creeping into the community and affecting the partnerships of NFL teams have emerged. Earlier this week, the Baltimore Ravens announced they will move their 2011 training camp from McDaniel College to their year-round facility in Owings Mills. During an average camp, over 110,000 fans attend the open practice sessions at McDaniel, the Ravens’ training camp home since the franchise started in 1996.
“We’re disappointed we won’t be back at McDaniel and in Westminster this summer. We delayed the decision as long as we could,” Bob Eller, the Ravens’ vice president of operations, said. “There are logistics that needed to be addressed now, including McDaniel’s schedule, the hotel, the fields and other Ravens football functions. Right now, we don’t know dates for camp, and we’ve been forced to make other plans.
“One of the main issues we have is the time it takes to move our entire football operation to Westminster and then bring it back to Owings Mills. Those are days we can’t afford to lose as our team prepares for the season in what has become a condensed time period.”
The college generally receives several hundred thousand dollars for the team’s scheduled yearly stay.
“We’ll miss being there, working with the college and the Best Western hotel. They have been very patient with us through this process,” Eller added. “We’ll also miss the interaction with the fans, which is a huge part of our camp experience.”
This is just the tip of the iceberg. How many other teams will back out of their agreements with their training-camp partners? What will the economic impact become for all NFL cities if the lockout is extended into the preseason?
While both sides are talking and progress is being made, it only takes one spark to start a forest fire that covers a lot of ground with a far-reaching effect. This will affect all NFL cities, large and small businesses, stadium workers (serving staff along with cleanup crews), local hotels, restaurants and sports bars. These local economies rely on the NFL, not to mention the billions of dollars spent with sports betting and fantasy football that has grown into an industry of itself.