NFL Lockout Looming: League Has Interesting Bedfellows, Intriguing Doublespeak

Michael SchotteyNFL National Lead WriterJanuary 4, 2011

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announces that the St. Louis Rams selected quarterback Sam Bradford from the Oklahoma Sooners first overall during the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

When NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell sent a letter to every fan in the NFL e-mail database, it made news. One line in particular struck a chord with many fans and members of the national media.

"We can and will reach an agreement."

As the 2010 regular season fades away and the playoffs loom, fans have no idea what is in store. Will owners be reluctant to fire coaches on the hotseat because of labor uncertainty? Will free agents sit unsigned while owners have more important matters to attend to? How will teams prepare for a season if the offseason isn't full of the normal workouts and mandatory meetings?

"We can and will reach an agreement."

But when?

Before offseason events start being missed? Before training camp? Before fans start turning their backs on the league?

The letter Goodell sent makes mention of concessions being made by both sides, yet doesn't mention a single concession the owners are willing to make. Players, on the other hand, are being asked to play two more games and be paid less of the overall pie.

While fans usually gravitate toward mega million-dollar contracts paid to top draft picks or the best QBs, they often forget about the end-of-the-roster players who make up a much greater percentage of the league.

Fans also forget that most players don't play their entire adult lives in the league. Most NFL athletes last less than three years in the league. Their piece of the overall pie is very small and they live the rest of their lives with long-lasting medical bills.

Many fans remember the story of Keith Fitzhugh, who gave up his NFL dreams because his family was offered more stability with his job as a train conductor.

How different would the NFL be if Kurt Warner was managing a Hy-Vee grocery store somewhere?

I'm not asking the common man to feel sorry for NFL athletes (especially in this economy), but this isn't an argument of how much the average NFL player should make in comparison to you or to me. This is an argument to how much the average NFL player should make in comparison to his employers.

In almost every business, owners have to worry about employees and product.

In the NFL, players are both the main source of labor and the product.

Are you going the stadium to watch Bob Kraft or Tom Brady?

George Atallah, the NFL Players Association's second-in-command, has an interesting view of the business world. Atallah is a business savvy young gun who got his MBA from George Washington and was an executive at Goldman Sachs.

His time at Goldman means he knows what many of us could have guessed. Many of the NFL owners do a lot of business with and are advised by Goldman Sachs, just like billionaires in any other profession.

Atallah called out the NFL just before the new year, reminding fans and owners that he knows something about business, and he knows intimately how their business advisers work. Goldman Sachs advisors would never let a deal be done by one of their clients unless they knew the financial details of both parties.

The NFL owners, many of them clients of Atallah's former company, expect the NFL players who come to an agreement with them without any information about how the NFL teams are actually doing financially.

Has the NFL ever been more popular?

Has the product on the field ever been more sought after?

Would any of the current NFL owners have bought their current teams if they didn't have some sort of clue what the commodity was actually worth?

Their financial advisers would never have allowed it.

In much the same way, the financial advisers of the NFL Players, the NFLPA, want to see just how much their concessions are needed for the overall health of the game.

The NFL doesn't think opening the financial books will do any good, citing recent NBA history, but what does the NFL have to lose? What are in the books that the NFL players can't see?

Frankly, if the books are that much of a secret, players should want to see them all the more.

The NFL players have been clear, opening up the financial statements are the first step to getting this deal done if the NFL owners want concessions to be made.

If Roger Goodell really thinks he can get a deal done and that it will happen, he needs to convince his bosses to let the players see exactly why they're being asked to make changes.

It's the way business is done.

Just ask the guys at Goldman Sachs.

 

Michael Schottey is the managing editor of the Bleacher Report College Writing Internship and an NFL Featured Columnist. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America and has covered the NFL Professionally for both print and radio media.