NFL Lockout: Why The NBA's Labor Problems Come At Perfect Time For NFL

Adam LazarusSenior Analyst IJune 30, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 28:  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks at the podium during the 2011 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 28, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Maybe it's the inner conspiracy theorist in me but I find it pretty strange that the NFL lockout may be coming to an end at the precise time that an NBA lockout is nearing.

The NFL negotiations have come to its most productive and optimistic stage since that bizarre 24-hour period around the draft and a new CBA might be in the works. Essentially the complete opposite is where the NBA stands: reports indicate that the two sides are very far apart and, with their CBA expiring on July 1, a lockout seems inevitable.

Obviously neither side wants a lockout, but that's not enough to prevent or end one.

But I do think the NFL—both the players and owners—are looking at the impending NBA work stoppage as a great opportunity.

A small part of that "opportunity" would be the power struggle for the public's attention and money. If there is pro football season in October, November and December, while there is no NBA basketball, the NFL can steal more TV revenue, more ticket sales, grab more headlines and further consolidate its empire.

But the NFL is already more popular and profitable than the NBA and whenever the league's operations resume the owners will not be hard up for cash.

Instead, I look at the next week or so as a perfect chance for the NFL to earn something far more vital than money: the public's respect and affection.

NEWARK, NJ - JUNE 23:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks at the podium during the 2011 NBA Draft at the Prudential Center on June 23, 2011 in Newark, New Jersey.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using thi
Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In a vacuum, the NFL lockout is hard for the "Average Joe" to understand and appreciate. We love football and these guys—even the low-level fourth-stringers—are making six-, seven- or even eight-figures per year. 

But compared to the NBA, the NFL players have it far worse than the NBA players. There are no guaranteed contracts, careers are far shorter, and the game is much more damaging to their health and quality of life. We often hear about NFL players from the 1960s, 1970s or 1980s who are either homeless, mentally troubled and depressed, or can't even afford to pay their medical bills. Rare is the ESPN Outside the Lines piece about the NBA players from that period running into such problems.

And, compared to the NBA, even the owners have it a bit worse: There are only eight to 10 home games for an NFL franchise, while there are 41 to 67 or so for the NBA. There are plenty more opportunities to make money for NBA franchises.

Put side by side, I can see fans rationalizing an NFL lockout more than an NBA lockout. Again, rationalizing, not justifying or saying they agree with it. So if both sides on the NFL lockout can reach an agreement they'll look far better in the public's eye than the two sides of the NBA lockout.

In that scenario, the owners and players can appeal to the public and say: "We care so much about giving you football, that we were willing to resolve our difference...unlike [finger point] those NBA characters."

We've all struggled to decipher who the "good guys" and who the "bad guys" of the NFL lockout are; it's a case of a huge group of millionaires battling with a small group of billionaires over billions of dollars. But introduce the NBA into the equation and we might just see the entire NFL as the good guys and see the NBA as the bad guys.

Finding a common enemy is always a good way to get the public on your side.