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NFL War of Words

March 22, 2011

Last week, Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the NFL, sent a letter to players seemingly to urge them back to the negotiating table by showing them what they were leaving behind. The players responded with a letter showing Goodell that his deal wasn’t so great.

Goodell is making a play to the public. Whenever the lockout ends, Goodell wants fans to be on the side of the NFL, and he is trying to convince us that the NFL is working with the players. He seemingly shows many good attributes of a proposal by the NFL – higher salary, more health care benefits, earlier free agency. If there are games missed, Goodell wants fans to come back to the NFL when games resume with the belief that Goodell and his executives had the best intentions in mind for the league and the players. He is obviously making the players out to be the bad guys.

The players poke holes in Goodell’s letter. They show that it’s not as good of a deal as he is portraying – their salary is decreased long-term, the structure of their compensation is completely different, the league is making the changes in offseason workouts and other benefits contingent on accepting less money. The players’ letter serves to show that Goodell is only showing one side of the argument and that side is very biased. The players attempt to win the fans by showing a corporation trying to restrict salary in a way that has never been done before.

So, who won the hearts of the fans? Obviously, this is a subjective question, but here are my thoughts.

Goodell’s letter, although it has been bashed, is a simple read. It shows the players getting more money and more benefits. Even if it’s less money than they could receive and the benefits are contingent on accepting the less attractive salary structure, they are getting more than they currently have. The players retort by arguing that the deal isn’t as good as it sounds, but this is a harder argument to make. The fans that are hearing the news but not reading and analyzing the details will see the players haggling over money that Goodell says is more than they’re currently making. If you’re a fan and you hear that Goodell is offering more money but the players want even more, your mind starts thinking about players who hold out of training camp. This is typically a situation that fans look down upon. The player is trying to argue that he deserves more, but Goodell is showing that he is already giving more. In my opinion,  a person reading both letters comes away thinking that Goodell and the NFL are trying their best but are facing players who are not willing to compromise.

What are your thoughts? Who won the PR battle in the war of words?

– Jason

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jason permalink
    March 22, 2011 2:54 pm

    the NFL will always come out ahead. The general public will never side with athletes in a predominantly black sport. In the mind of a fan, the narrative will always be that athletes are lucky to play a kids game for a living, and should be satisfied with whatever the owners decide to pay them.

    My take on the NBA and NFL CBA negotiations is that both leagues are finally trying to emulate general American business over the last 30 years, when it comes to management-labor relations. Both leagues, through their CBA’s, seek to facilitate the upwards redistribution of income. Owners are effectively trying to take money out of players pockets in order to pad their own.

    To “run and grow a legitimate business” in this day and age means that an organization disconnects the link between worker pay and worker productivity, allowing management to capture all gains. Since it is difficult/impossible/irrelevant to determine the “productivity” of an athlete, disconnecting worker pay and worker productivity is applied differently. Here, the owners goal is to disconnect worker pay from increases in demand, “demand” being defined as fan interest in the game.

    With more fan interest, the MRP of players increases, not because their productivity increases, but because additional fans increase marginal revenue, resulting in an increase in demand for the players labor. Ordinarily, when demand rises, so do wages. However, in an attempt to emulate a “legitimate American business,” owners seek to disconnect this link, causing increased demand not to result in increases wages, but only increased profits, captured entirely by owners.

    • March 22, 2011 9:23 pm

      Jason, Thanks for reading the post and commenting. Very interesting thoughts, and I think you’re right about the owner’s intentions. Regardless of anyone’s belief of whether it is right or wrong, they definitely want more of the profits.

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