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Thursday, March 24, 2011

The NFL Lock-Out, Part I

NFL The NFL’s owners entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the players after the 2008 season.  The agreement expired on March 4th of this year.  As ESPN.com reports, after several delays and a 16-day federal mediation, the owners locked the players out.  A lock-out means that the players can have no contact with teams or their personnel, do not get paid, and also cannot negotiate new contracts with their respective teams or any other teams. This is the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.  

The players union has now dissolved itself, enabling individual players to bring a class-action antitrust suit in federal court.  The matter is scheduled to be heard by a federal judge on April 6.  The Washington Post reports that the owners have asked the judge to allow the lockout to continue until the National Labor Relations Board has ruled on its claim that the union's decertification was an unfair labor practice.  

As the New York Times reports, the main issue dividing the parties is revenue sharing.  Under the old deal, the players received nearly 60% of the league revenue from 2006 to 2009 after the owners took $1 billion off the top.  The owners are currently proposing a 50/50 split after the owners take $2 billion off the top.  The owners need the added money to cover the cost of building new stadiums, and the players should still make at least as much in absolute terms because the new deal would prolong the season to 18 games, thus leading to more revenue -- largely from television deals.

Sporting News provides this run-down of the two sides' positions on the other issues, including the proposed rookie pay scale, benefits for retired players, and the level of the salary cap.  The two sides' positions started off $1 billion apart.  They negotiated down to around $185 million apart, but then talks broke down when the owners refused the players' request for financial information about the various NFL franchises.

The final major dispute between the two sides is level of the salary cap.  The players have said the owners’ current offer is based on unrealistically low revenue proposals.  According to ESPN.com the owners’ have offered an increase in the salary cap from $131 million to $141 million for next season in their most recent proposal.  The players reportedly seek a cap of $151 million.  

The New Yorker's James Surowiecki is most eloquent on the reasons why "in a contest between millionaire athletes and billionaire socialists it’s the guys on the field who deserve to win."

[Jared Vasiliauskas & JT]

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