Today, as an NFL lockout and the possible cancellation of the 2011 season haunts the sports faithful across the country, reporters sought the opinion of a certain Chicago Bears fan living in Washington, DC: Barack Obama.
As someone who has watched the president spend three years appearing annoyed over the concerns of organized labor, I was not surprised by his comments. But I was still upset. Obama said, “You’ve got owners, most of whom are worth close to a billion dollars. You’ve got players who are making millions of dollars…. When people are working to cut back, compromise and worry about making the mortgage and paying for their kids’ college education is that the two parties should be able to work it out without the president of the United States intervening.”
The news flash for reporters was that “Obama will not be intervening.” But for me, the part that made my eyes narrow was Obama’s repetition from the bully pulpit that all the problems in the NFL is about “billionaires vs. millionaires.” He might as well have said, “a pox on both their houses”
There are so many reasons why this is wrong and even more reasons why fans, labor activists and progressives should stand proudly with the players.
First of all, it’s a lockout, not a strike. The NFL Players Association has said repeatedly that they will play under the existing contract until a new agreement is reached. Amazingly, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says that this proves there needs to be a lockout. Goodell wrote, “The union has repeatedly said that it hasn’t asked for anything more and literally wants to continue playing under the existing agreement. That clearly indicates the deal has moved too far in favor of one side.” Keep in mind, this is a league coming off its most successful season in history. But for the owners it’s not enough. They want massive wage cuts and an extension of the season to eighteen games. If they don’t get it and if there is no extension, they will be locking the doors by midnight tonight.
A March lockout might mean little to fans, but for players it constitutes a threat to their very health. An off-season lockout means that they will have no access to team trainers, doctors, or physical therapists. Remember, this is a league with a 100 percent injury rate. A March lockout also means that healthcare for players and their families is officially cut off. One player’s wife had her pregnancy induced last week so it would be covered by the NFL’s health plan.
Second, only one side is negotiating in good faith. The NFL owners claim a dip in profits, despite the league’s leviathan-sized success, but refuse to open their books and prove it. It boggles the mind. Imagine sharing revenue with someone in any business and your partner doesn’t let you see how much you are actually making.