The NFL Lockout Is About To End. Who Won?
Most likely within the next few days, NFL teams will stop locking out their players and the league will return to business as usual. One of the last potential stumbling blocks was reported demands made by a few players in the "Brady v. NFL" antitrust case, but some of those players are already coming out publicly and saying they'll do nothing to hold up an agreement.
So an agreement's happening - an agreement capping months of often-contentious negotiations and sniping in the press. And considering the players and owners were worlds apart initially, it's fair to wonder with the conflict drawing to a close: who won? Each side had to make concessions, and undoubtedly both NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith will trumpet the great gains they made, as well as the power and beauty of negotiations where people work together to get a deal done, at a shiny press conference in a few days. But did either side have to make more concessions?
On the face of it, this looks like a good deal for the owners. They wanted more money, and they got it. Gone is the 50-50 owner-player revenue split: The New York Times' Judy Battista says the players will receive between 46 and 48 percent of league revenue annually. While the players could even claim victory on this point (initially, the owners wanted far more), the bottom line is that the owners will get more money than before, and players get less. Additionally, the rookie wage scale will be brought in check, but considering how crazy rookie contracts were getting, that's less a win for the owners than sanity prevailing.
The players won on some issues too, though. Battista noted that the deal that will be voted on contains "strict limits on the number and intensity of off-season and training camp workouts," and the possibility of an 18-game season never really even came up. And current players aren't the only ones to make important gains: the new CBA contains nearly $1 billion in added benefits for retirees, which even if it won't satisfy everyone, still represents an important step forward.
But if we had to pick one side as the winner, we're going with the owners. The players won't have an 18-game season, and they won't have quote as strenuous a training camp, but football will still be dangerous. And while a new requirement that teams must spend at least 90 percent of the salary cap is good news for players (and, potentially, fans of more frugal teams), the owners now have to pay less money to unproven rookies, and they get a bigger slice of the NFL's substantial revenue stream. The NFL is a multibillion-dollar business, and the owners now have more of those billions to themselves. Both sides got some of what they wanted, but the owners made the gains in the one area that really counts for them: the bottom line.
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