Call Me Late to the Party, But I'm Really Starting to Hate the NFL Owners

The NFL lockout is starting to wear on me in a way that I didn’t think it would. I expected the process to get ugly but that never mattered to me, it never mattered to me which side ultimately “won”. All I ever wanted was for some sort of resolution and an uninterrupted 2011 season.

I’ve never been anything but quick to push back on anyone that says professional athletes are overpaid. Anyone that produces such ridiculous volumes of revenue deserves to share in the riches. The overpaid-athlete argument is a misdirection of resentment that a “game” can produce piles of cash. Leagues make money, players deserve money. Done.

That being said, I don’t expect the owners to hand over whatever the players want. The owners have made investments into the league and I have no problem with them seeking a deal that they believe provides them the best chance for a healthy present and future. The players have been, and will be, provided with a comfortable portion of the pie. I fully affirm each side’s right to a nice portion of that pie and care little for however that pie is sliced.

Many that have followed the owners’ actions will point out that the lockout plans have been in the works for a couple years. Even so, that alone isn’t enough for me to give the owners the stink-eye. Negotiation is all about leverage and it is reasonable to expect the owners to seek whatever leverage they have at their disposal. The courts may deem some of the leverage they have exacted as a violation of labor law, but I can’t fault them for trying. That being said, my feelings started to change after a Pro Football Talk article revealed some troubling things that they had been hearing:

We’re hearing initial rumblings pointing to the possibility that a loss by the league at the appellate level will prompt the owners to completely shut down all business operations until the players agree to a new labor deal. The thinking is that, if the owners cease all operations, the NFL would not be violating the court order because there would be no lockout. Instead, the league essentially would be going out of business — something for which the NFL repeatedly chided the union in the weeks and months preceding decertification of the NFLPA.

This reeks of the poor sport on the playground that decides to pick up his ball and go home. We’re all the neighborhood kids that are left without a game. I’m all for each sides negotiating the best possible deal, just make sure there is some sort of resolution before it starts taking away meaningful portions of the NFL calendar.

Reports surfaced yesterday that the league may be investigating various options for instituting their own set of rules, as they are able to do since the NFLPA decertification, but it doesn’t appear a resumption of league activities is imminent. Rather than a ray of hope, I see this as an all-options-on-the-table move. Preparing and investigating is still a step removed from implementing and enforcing.

Are the owners really so entrenched that they are willing to make NFL fans collateral damage? It’s a risk I wouldn’t be willing to take, and one I hope they see it the same way. The scales of public support already lean towards the players. The butt whipping many expect the league to take in court will pale in comparison to what they feel from fans if their strategy turns from lockout to shutdown.

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