As a football fan, I’ve wanted to write about this subject for a long time. Although it is possible that some people have not heard about the NFL Lockout, I think most people are probably sick of hearing about it by now. I think it has importance still; the difficult part is how to connect it directly with the mission of this blog. I will attempt to show why people should be concerned about, paying attention to, and discussing the lockout, while mixing in some of my personal reflections.
Why you should consider caring about the NFL Lockout:
1. You are a sports fan of one of the teams that plays in the NFL
This is preaching to the choir. Many NFL fans are already familiar with what is going on this offseason, but in case you’ve turned off your TV after the Superbowl and haven’t read any sports news, there is a chance there will be no NFL season this coming year if a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is not reached between the players and owners.
As I fan, I look forward to the season. Living on the other side of the country from where I grew up, football is one of the ways I stay connected to what is going on back home.
2. You live within the market of an NFL team
So you may not be a fan, but living in the city of an NFL franchise or the surrounding area means you likely can’t escape the fandom of other people. Some stadiums were paid for in part by tax revenue, you may have helped fund a stadium that could go largely unused this year. If there lockout continues through the season and I worked somewhere that could find a use for a stadium (for a concert, for high school sports, for community events, etc.) I would attempt to capitalize on the lack of business.
And speaking of lack of business, the players, owners, and fans are far from the only people affected by the lockout. Businesses rely on the money that people spend when they watch a football game. People travel from out of town, stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, drink in bars, shop, sightsee, take cabs, park, and do many other things. It also means more work for the city, be it because of increased traffic of cleaning up after fans, but the fact remains, there is a great deal of money involved in the process, but these parties have no say at the table with the players and owners.
And this is just in the cities where there is a football team. Some teams travel to other places for their training camps. Teams and fans alike spend money in these places. There are many other cities and towns where people want to watch football as well and businesses there, likely bars and restaurants with satellite TV, see increased revenue during the season.
3. Test case for other national sports leagues
So you may not be a fan of an NFL franchise, but do you follow the NBA or the NHL? The current NBA CBA expires at the end of the month. There are already rumors of a potential lockout. Likewise, the NHL CBA expires in 2012 and while it seems there are rules in place that the league will continue to operate in its current form after that, the NFL lockout (and possible NBA lockout) could potentially change that.
4. Legal/labor cases
Ok, you don’t care for football. Maybe you don’t watch basketball or hockey either. Perhaps you enjoy law and politics. There are several legal battles currently being decided surrounding the lockout. The first of which is whether the lockout should be allowed. There is also a suit about contract negotiations with TV stations, with the players arguing the owners did not act in the players’ best interest. These cases could provide rulings that affect legal precedent. The players’ suit is alleging “irreparable harm,” such as losing a year of work when their job relies heavily on physical ability. These battles are taking place in US courts; so again, you could be paying part of the cost of this fight. It is possible that politicians could become involved. The government grants the NFL antitrust exemptions, but this could be challenged or threatened to be examined in order to put pressure on the sides to come to an agreement. Besides, where else can you learn about the intricate differences between a union and a trade association?
5. Appeal to public sentiment in negotiations
This is perhaps the most intriguing reason. The owners and the players are both trying to get the public on their side. Even though it may not seem like it, it appears that both the players and owners realize the power we as consumers have. And they know how much people love football. The owners talk of extending the regular season to give fans more football games, claiming this is what fans want (I could spend a lot of time talking about this, but this post is already far too long). The players laud their love of the game and how they just want to be allowed to talk with their coaches and play football. Many fans, or at least some of the fans who frequent internet message boards, are angered by the whole situation and cast the lockout as millionaires and billionaires fighting over the fans’ money. It is hard to find sympathy, they argue, for people who can’t find a way to split nine billion dollars. The rhetoric we will continue to see can be studied and applied to other things, such as elections, competition between businesses for brand recognition and loyalty, etc.
There have been many pieces written about what people should do with extra time they might have if there is no football season. Ray Lewis believes that crime will increase without an NFL season. Much has also been said about his comments, I include them mainly because I think it is another example of how far reaching the impact of the lockout could be.
In any case, I hope you are now more interested in the lockout than you were at the start of this post (if you’ve made it the whole way through). I would ask the players, the owners, the judges, and the lawyers what kind of people they would like to be. And I find myself sitting with the uncomfortable question of what kind of person do I want to be, and should I really care as much as I do as to whether there is a football season this fall.