09.30.2010 2

The Big Labor Virus Has Struck the NFL: Introducing the Players

The NFL has become America’s pastime over the past quarter century, replacing baseball as America’s most popular sport. Need some convincing? Last years’ Super Bowl was watched by over a third of the nation, becoming the most watched television event in U.S. history. But as the popularity of the NFL booms, there is a storm brewing that could prevent professional football from being played for quite some time after this season ends.

The National Football League Players Association, a labor union whose members play professional football in the NFL, is threatening an all out strike which could very well prevent the 2011 NFL season from happening. While many fans hate to think it will happen, it is an almost certainty according to those on both sides of the fight.

In one corner you have Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL. Goodell comes from a background in public relations, holds an economics degree from Washington & Jefferson College, and is married to former FOX News Channel anchor Jane Skinner. Goodell has been at the helm of the NFL since September of 2006. With Goodell’s background in public relations, it is no surprise that the NFL is looking at the potential lockout through a public relations lens.

In the other corner you have DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the NFL Players Association. Smith is a Washington, D.C. insider who was previously a trial lawyer with the Patton Boggs law firm. Smith has represented such companies as Halliburton, Shell Motor Company and Ford Motor Company. Further, Smith had no labor law experience before becoming the head of the labor union in 2009. He also has ties to Obama and Eric Holder — solid labor union defenders.

Smith also has taken the approach of a trial lawyer when framing the debate on the possible 2011 lockout. When asked what the chances were of a lockout on a scale of 1 to 10, he responded “14.” Moreover, Smith has positioned the NFLPA as the group that is preventing football from happening unlike Goodell.

Roger Goodell has taken an approach that positions the NFL favorably in the public eye. Earlier this week, Goodell laid out a plan of how NFL operations would continue in a lockout scenario should a new collective bargaining agreement not be reached between the NFL and NFLPA. His plan’s first phase includes pay cuts for senior vice presidents as well as himself. Phase two of his plan includes two week unpaid leaves of absence for a majority of league employees. Phase three is large-scale pay cuts and salary freezes for employees. Goodell is giving his employees ample warning for what might lie ahead so that they can adequately plan should the worst happen.

But that’s not to say that Smith hasn’t adequately prepared his members for the worst. Smith has been adamant about having a lockout and has made no secret about that. But it is common knowledge that many of the professional athletes that he represents are not the best managers of their money. And it is unlikely that Smith has adequately prepared the people that he represents to weather a season without pay.

Since the last lockout in the NFL, which was in 1987, both sides have seen an ever-increasing amount of wealth while there has been a sustained peacetime between the union and the league. As the NFL has come to the forefront of American sports, so have the profits. But now, with an unproven labor leader, the NFLPA is trying to get “its fair share” while DeMaurice Smith is trying to prove himself as a big-time labor boss. At this point, it is shaping up to be another example of how Big Labor ruins a good thing.

Adam Bitely is the Editor-in-Chief of NetRightDaily.com.

NRD Editor’s Note: This is the first of a multi-part series on the looming labor talks that threaten to shutdown the National Football League in 2011.

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