All eyes on the NFL and NFLPA’s ongoing labor dispute now makes a stop in St. Louis on Friday at the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse. That’s where the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and judges Steven M. Colloton, Duane Benton and Kermit Bye will preside over the case involving the NFL and the union. Both sides will have 30 minutes each to voice their arguments. The three wise men will listen intently to both sides and then hand down their ruling in mid- to late July.
I am one of 27 credentialed media representatives that have a seat in the courtroom. Other media outlets that received credentials include Acrys Sports, the Associated Press, CNN, Courthouse News, ESPN, KTVI, Missouri Media (Daily Rec), New York Daily News, New York Times, NFL Network, Newsday, Fox News, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sports Business Journal, USA Today and the Washington Post. I look forward to hearing every word spoken by lawyers for both the NFL and the players.
There are two different ways it can go. The court can side with the players and lift the lockout, or side with the owners and allow the lockout to remain in place, keeping the players outside and on the street. Keep in mind that a CBA still needs to be agreed upon and will most likely happen coming out of the courts.
I honestly don’t have a good feeling about which way this will go. That’s why Friday will be an exciting day for me, not because we will find out about the lockout, but because everyone in the courtroom that morning will see the process up close. We’ll all be a part of NFL vs. NFLPA history.
It’s been said over and over that the owners can hold out while affording to concentrate on the long-term forcing the players to cave in. Even though the NFL is at its peak earnings (close to 10 billion dollars), teams are either laying off or furloughing staff members and cutting scouts and coaches pay by 25-50 percent. Let’s not forget that the NFL league office, NFL Films and the NFL Network are all feeling the pinch just so the owners don’t feel the crunch. I understand they have ongoing operating costs and mortgage payments on new stadiums.
While I’m not siding with either the owners or the players, the players have short careers and have to think in the present, and any money they lose will not be made up, whereas the owners can raise beer or hot dog sales along with parking to recoup their loss in revenue.
I think the bigger question is if the lockout is allowed to continue, how will the players that command the higher salaries in the millions along with team representatives and NFLPA lawyers convince the remaining players to stay the course and maintain solidarity, while not allowing potential lost income to divide the house?
There have been a handful of current players starting to voice their opinion through various social media outlets, stirring up thought and concern about the players’ togetherness. In my opinion, if the lockout goes past the Hall of Fame Game and into the second and third week of the regular-season schedule, then what will happen to the 14-year veteran who is making the veteran minimum who only plans to play another season or two, or the practice-squad player that is making $4,700 week and is struggling to pay for his apartment or car payment (let alone groceries)? How many, at that point, will say that it’s enough and when will they vocalize their feelings loud and clear? Do the players vote to start a new union? Do they convince DeMaurice Smith and the upper-tier players to take the deal that’s on the table?
For the good of the game and the fans, let’s hope that cooler heads prevail. Let’s hope that whatever ruling the Eighth Circuit comes down with that both sides work their way back to the bargaining table where the CBA will get done. I believe it’s just a matter of when.