Labor Woes Expand … Morning Cup O’Chiefs

“We have a huge philosophical divide.”

Just who was the man behind those words that were spoken to describe a labor battle in the American sports world? NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? Was it representative for the players, DeMaurice Smith?

Nope … those are the words of NBA Commissioner David Stern, as professional basketball began a lockout of its own at 12:01 Friday morning.

It was just about the same time that the NFL and its players finally ended a 16-hour negotiating marathon in Minneapolis, and they’ll be back at it on Friday.

Just as their brethren in pro football did, the NBA owners are shooting to come back from what they view as a bad labor deal with the NBA players that they signed in 2005. According to Stern and the owners, 22 of the 30 NBA teams would end up losing money in the just completed 2010-11 season with projected losses at $300 million league-wide.

The NBA owners and players have met, but they are miles and miles apart – “a huge philosophical divide” – and the financial future of the league will hang in the balance as they attempt to sort out the issues in coming weeks and months.

“The goal here has been to make the league profitable and to have a league where all 30 teams can compete,” said Stern.

Like the NFL, the $9 billion sporting behemoth that has become America’s past-time. There is not a single NFL team that lost money during the 2010 season. If they did, then it was a matter of accounting rather than reality. The team representing the smallest market in the league won the championship.

While the lead up to the NBA lockout was going on Thursday, the NFL and its players continued their conversations towards a new labor deal. This time they were meeting in the offices of a Minneapolis law firm. After three days where only the lawyers were haggling, on Thursday owners and players were back at the negotiating table.

The group included Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt on the owners’ side and left guard Brian Waters helping to represent the players. These talks began at 8 a.m. and rolled pretty much throughout the day and the parties did not leave the building until after midnight CDT. Reportedly, they’ll be back at it beginning at 8 a.m.

The owners’ lockout of the players reaches 112 days on Friday, or 16 weeks of give and take, yelling and whispering. Optimism has been the watchword over the last 10 days as their conversations continued. Depending on what media source you wish to believe, that optimism either continued in Thursday’s session or was snuffed out by the owners.

Over at, columnist Mike Freeman wrote on Thursday evening – I believe it is the owners who are destroying this round of talks, even as the two sides are extremely close. I believe the sources that tell me owners are playing mind games with the players: getting their optimism up and then down, hoping the players cave out of frustration.”

But there’s the report from writer Albert Breer of that indicates that the talks continue in a positive manner and are hung on the same major points – distribution of revenue and a rookie salary system. Wrote Breer – “As for the rookie salary system, the numbers aren’t the only issue. Finding a way to replace the market effect those contracts have on veterans as well as getting high draft picks to free agency quicker are among the players’ concerns. As it stands, six-year contracts are allowed for high first-round picks making big money.”

Whether Thursday was a positive or negative day, the clock is ticking on the owners and players. That’s the biggest reason they were willing to put in a 16-hour day.  Three weeks from Friday, the two teams playing in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio can go to training camp – Chicago and St. Louis. Its four weeks away from every other team being able to start prep for the 2011 pre-season.

Since the Green Bay Packers walked off the field with the Super Bowl trophy the belief has been that as long as the owners and players were talking, there was hope of settle in their fight over billions of dollars.

That talk was only worthwhile if they were talking about serious issues and talking about them with all their cards on the table. Right now is a very sensitive time in this labor game. There are pressures coming at the NFL from outside the league. There are internal pressures within ownership ranks. The players are getting itchy and quite possibly they’ve gotten their hopes up with all the talk of optimism.

It’s time for the talk to include action from both sides. It’s the fourth quarter for this labor negotiation, where the goal is not to win, or lose, but to tie. Both sides of this discussion need to be happy with some things, unhappy with others. There can be no celebratory dances in the end zone. Both sides need to act like they’ve been there before.

And, like so many NFL games each year the outcome will be decided in this fourth quarter.

“(It’s) about getting a fair deal done and trying to get back to the game and business of football as quickly as possible,” Smith said after both he and Goodell spoke to a meeting of rookies in Florida on Wednesday.

Whether or not we have training camp and pre-season football hangs in the balance.

2 Responses to “Labor Woes Expand … Morning Cup O’Chiefs”

  • July 1, 2011  - RW says:

    Neither side must realize that they’re not going to get everything they want. Question is, does either side realize this to be the case? I get the sense that the owners are all in and won’t budge until they bludgeon the players into submission.

    Holding their group together and remain steadfast will be a far greater challenge for the players than the owners from a sheer numbers perspective. At what point does the player’s resolve cave and they accept their fate?

    I don’t believe they’re at that point yet. Deep financial pain is ahead and when that reality has sunk in, we’ll see resolution. Pride comes before the fall but when will that fall occur?

    It could be tomorrow or could be late September when everyone should really be back in school or on the field. That’s roughly 90 days from now with the over/under going off at 45 days. Right now, I’m taking the over.

  • July 2, 2011  - ChuckP says:

    For what its worth I use to listen to my Sirius Satelitte Radio NFL Network channel daily. Not anymore. Its gotten so boring I now listen to CNBC pretty much all the time. I have to say this thing has really drug out to the max and has somewhat turned me off. I still side with the owners. I feel the players are kinda like the tail wagging the dog. The owners take all the financial risk. If the stadium is half empty on sundays its the owner that suffers not the players. I also feel that if the player is not satisfied with his paycheck he is free to seek a job down at the local grocery store!!!!!

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