The failure of negotiations between NFL team owners and the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to come to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has led to the players decertifying their union and taking the owners to court.

In response, actually a planned tactic for probably three years or more, the owners have locked the players out. That means the players cannot use team facilities for training, injury rehabilitation, practices, and for all I know stopping by to flirt with the pretty receptionist.

Here is an explanation of the legal goings on from Lester Munson of

A lot of folks have characterized this dispute as one between billionaires…most owners…and millionaires…a good percentage of the players.

Normally I have great difficulty feeling sorry for millionaires even in battle with richer folk. Anyone who has read my entries opposing continued tax cuts for the rich can attest to that.

But I simply have to make an exception in this instance, slightly reluctantly, but very slightly.

Here are some financial facts on the NFL I gleaned from Bob Smizik’s blog in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette that he extracted from Sports Illustrated.

Last week’s edition of Sports Illustrated had a treasure chest of NFL financial data that deserves to be passed on. So with full credit to SI’s great reporting, here is some of that information:

* Five wealthiest owners and their worth: Paul Allen, Seattle, $12.9 billion; Steve Ross, Miami, $3.3 billion; Malcolm Glazer, Tampa Bay, $2.4 billion; Stan Kroenke, St. Louis, $2.2 billion; Jerry Jones, Dallas, $1.9 billion.

* 31st and 32nd wealthiest owners and their worth: Steve Tisch, New York Giants, $170 million; Dan Rooney, Pittsburgh, $150 million.

* Two costliest stadiums of 11 built in the past decade: New Meadowlands (Giants, Jets) $1.6 billion; Cowboys, $1.15 billion.

* Two least expensive of the 11: Heinz Field (Steelers), $312 million; Gillette (New England), $373 million.

* New stadium with most private financing: New Meadowlands and Gillette, 100 percent.

* New stadium with least private financing: Lucas Oil Field (Indianapolis), 13 percent; Heinz Field, 16 percent

* Annual rights fees from TV networks: ESPN, $1.1 billion for 18 games; Fox, $712.5 million for 102 games; NBC, $650 million for 18 games; CBS $622.5 million for 102 games.

* Annual amount from radio, TV and digital earnings: $4 billion.

* Fee from Verizon to be the NFL’s wireless provider: $720 million.

* Average annual value per player for apparel deal: $30,000.

* Average player salary in 1980: $78,657.

* Average player salary in 2010: $1.9 million.

* Highest salary in 1980: $475,000.

* Highest salary in 2010: $26.9 million.

* Annual earnings in endorsements by Peyton Manning: $15 million.

Now that’s one hell of a lot of money split some weird ass ways. For those lacking more than general knowledge about how the NFL works to pay its players, I’ll provide a brief overview.

Now the irony here is that, for an organization with so much capital at stake and that allows non-college graduates to earn millions, the NFL is a completely socialistic enterprise.

Well, maybe not completely, but here’s how it works. The NFL cumulates the income to all teams from various sources, mostly broadcast rights and ticket sales, and splits that revenue between all 32 of its members.

By the CBA just expired (the owners opting out three years early) a percentage of that revenue was devoted to paying players. Now the owners, crying poormouth, want to reduce that percentage which will naturally mean lower pay for the players.

But, interestingly enough, the owners are required to spend at least a minimum amount on players’ salaries up to a maximum called the salary cap. There is a minimum pay for any player, no matter his skills or experience. But otherwise the pie is cut up depending on the negotiating ability of the agents for the players.

A few things to remember about the players. The average NFL career is less than four years. The individual minimum pay is around $400,000 a year, so they are in the highest tax brackets.

Their contracts are not guaranteed. Many prefer a huge up front signing bonus to a large yearly salary. Players’s careers are not only short, but studies suggest they have a much higher risk of severe health problems after their playing days are over than the average person their age. These studies are ongoing and so far not entirely conclusive.

So yes, the players make big bucks for playing a game, but for how long? And at what long term non-monetary price? So they deserve more sympathy than the run-of-the-mill millionaire.

Here is a story on the latest exchanges between the two sides.

In addition to the payroll givebacks the owners also want to expand the regular season to eighteen games from sixteen. A lengthier season is thought to lead to more injuries and further shortening of careers.

So with all of these factors, I support the millionaire players over the billionaire owners. In summary:

Everybody please remember that the players did not opt out of the CBA, it was the owners. It is not the players asking for more money, it is the owners asking them to take less money. It is not the players asking to have fewer games on the schedule, it is the owners asking them to add games to the schedule.

If the business were hurting financially, I suppose a case could be made for givebacks. But by almost all accounts the league is thriving. As private companies the owners have no obligation to provide precise profit-loss statements, save one.

The Green Bay Packers are publicly owned, selling shares to their fans. Their latest financial statement showed a profit last year of over $9 million. But accounting figures can be tricky and with the over $8 billion currently subject to revenue sharing and the percentage devoted to players, it is difficult to see how all but the worst teams (in management, not on the field) don’t turn a handsome and resonable profit.

Remember there are revenue streams available out side those that are part of the CBA.

So this round is won by the millionaires. GO PLAYERS!! I do want Congress to eliminate the Bush tax cuts for the very rich. Let the players pay that 3% extra marginal rate on their earnings. They are millionaires after all.

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