Dear National Football League Owners and the NFL Players Association,
Let me just start this by saying, I'm not a lawyer, I'm not an expert on labor negotiations and I am not now, nor have I ever been, a professional football player. I can't even begin to understand the world that you live in and the issues that you are dealing with during this labor negotiation. What I am is a fan of football.
While football is not the main focus of my life, I live for the months of September through February. I stay up 'till three or four in the morning on the first day of free agency, constantly hitting refresh on three or four different tabs open in my internet browser. I watch every pick of the draft on all three days, and start thinking about the draft as soon as my team's season ends.
I don't have season tickets because I can't afford them, but every month—no matter what—I put away some money in the hopes that one day I will be able to. Some months it's 50 dollars, some months it's as little as five. Even without season tickets I still find a way to go to a few games a year, and those games I can't make I watch every second of on television then the highlights, then the re-runs on NFL Network.
Being an East Coaster, I live for that first game of the year that I'm able to go to, waking up at six in the morning, the crisp early fall air, the leaves crunching under your feet, the kind of day that when you pull on that hoody and jersey and walk out the door. It just feels like football weather. On those Sunday mornings the air just seems to taste better, the sun shines brighter, and even if it's 15 degrees the cold doesn't bite quite as deep to the bone.
I am writing this letter to ask you to get a deal done, and protect the 16 Sundays a year that I love the most. As one of many who are struggling in this economy, do you realize how silly you look when you are unable to even sit down at a table and seriously discuss getting a deal done? All this time you have spent talking to the press, complaining about the other side in these discussions, is time that could be spent at the table.
It basically boils down a fight with a group of billionaires on one side, and a group of millionaires on the other. I realize that the high dollar deals and big money contracts don't go to all of the players and that the average NFL Salary for 2009 was $770,000.
But do you realize that I could work for 13 or 14 years of my life and not make as much as the average NFL player makes in one year.
I also understand that the average shelf life of an NFL player is short and that you are worried about providing for your families. The average American is also worried about providing for their families without a minimum salary of $325,000 a year, the minimum for rookies.
Every player in the NFL has had an opportunity to pursue a college education, most of them at a reduced or free rate. If you failed to take advantage of an opportunity that most parents would kill to be able to provide for their children, that is your fault. The lifestyle that you choose to live is also not something that the fans who buy the tickets and support the advertisers who ultimately pay your salaries should have to suffer for.
As a fan, I also find it hard to listen to your complaining about your medical benefits and future health risks. Only one player in the entire NFL donated a game check to help support the players who forged the way and allowed you to make the money you make today. If Matt Birk, the only player who did so, wants to complain then I will listen to him.
Why should we care about the health insurance and future well being of millionaires when—as a Baltimore resident—I had a front row seat to the painful decline of Johnny Unitas. He was one of the greatest to play the game but couldn't even sign autographs with his right hand, couldn't pay for his own medical care and died in great pain, with little to no help from the NFL owners, or the NFL players.
That is only one example.
If you really want to dig into it just google retired NFL players' health care issues. Every city with an NFL past has a story that is eerily the same. When the players of today were given a chance to step up and show their appreciation for those who blazed the trail for far less money, they almost as a whole dropped the ball.
But the owners aren't getting off the hook either.
These are the same players that made the game what it is today, allowed you, the owners, to have those billion dollar stadiums, and a fan base that supports your multi-billion dollar industry. Yet you just choose to brush them aside like yesterdays trash.
I don't mind paying $8.00 for a .65 cent beer and $5.00 for a .75 cent hot dog but it would certainly make it a lot easier to swallow if even a fraction of a penny of that purchase went to help former players.
Also, don't try to tell me as a fan that you are losing money without opening your books. If you want us to buy your sob story, give us some proof. I'm sure it's been a long time if at all since you had to decide between which bills will get paid this month and praying the car doesn't break down, or one of your family members gets ill, knowing that if that happens it will be a financial disaster.
I'm asking both sides to stop wasting time, money, and effort attempting to curry the favor of the fans, because all you are doing is coming across as two spoiled children with too many toys to ever play with, refusing to share with each other.
Because of that none of the other children can have any toys at all. My girlfriend and I fight about money too, you know what we do? We sit down and compromise. We don't run to our friends and family trying to make the other look bad and get their support.
Stop doing your talking in public and do it behind closed doors. Sit down at the table and negotiate. Here's a start.
The current split is 60 percent of each dollar goes to the players and 40 percent goes to the owners. That's a difference of 20 percent.
How about 54.5 percent goes to the players, 44.5 percent to the owners, and one percent to the health care of future and former players.
The owners want 18 games, the players want 16. How about 17 regular season games, one on a neutral field and three pre-season games with a roster expanded to 65. I know the players don't want to budge on this, but the agreement you are currently under permits up to 22 regular season games, and we didn't hear all the crying and complaining when that was signed, because you were getting 60 percent of every dollar.
As far as the three year window before pension and medical insurance for life kick in, keep it the same but change it so that as soon as you set foot on the field for a team, be it practice, preseason, regular season or playoffs, if you suffer a legitimate injury, that injury and any related medical costs are covered for life.
I know I'm over-simplifying things, but at least it's a start, at least I'm thinking about ways to negotiate instead of ways to get the general public on my side.
Worry less about how big of a slice of the very large pie you are going to get, or else that pie is going to get much, much smaller. You are insulting the intelligence of the fans, and risking the things you are fighting so hard to protect by not even being able to sit down at a table and talk about a deal to guarantee football for the next year. Get a deal done guys, or else it's going to be a long fall and winter, and I don't know if the game will ever be the same.
An NFL Fan.