NFL must avoid a lockout

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

This year’s NFL season has only been over for a couple of weeks, and as a hard-core football fan, I miss it already. That’s pretty sad. It could get a ton worse. The chance of a lockout is looking more and more like a possibility every day we get closer to March 4.

That is the deadline the owners and players have set for themselves. I understand this is when the current collective bargaining agreement expires, but so what? I don’t understand why they’ve imposed this arbitrary date. The labor talks between the two parties have been stalled for months. What’s the significance of March 4?

My suggestion to the owners and the players is to get this resolved. Immediately, if not sooner, but get it resolved, even if it takes longer than the fourth day of March.

Granted, football fans are passionate about their love of the sport. However, that passion could easily be channeled in a negative direction if they end up alienating “Joe Sixpack.” Is that a risk worth taking? I don’t think so.

They need to take a look at sports history. It was not that long ago (1994) when Major League Baseball experienced a work stoppage. Baseball has yet to fully recover.

Both sides need to realize how fortunate they are. The owners are coming off a season where every franchise was profitable, they’ve benefited from record television revenues and the recent Super Bowl was the highest-rated show in history.

The players have to recognize they are in an elite group of “laborers.” Even players on NFL practice squads earn $5,200 per week. That’s $88,000 for a 17-week season. Granted, that’s not anywhere close to the multi-millions “earned” by some of the league’s superstars, but it is still a pretty decent salary, and way more than most of us make in a 52-week year.

There is plenty of money to go around for both the players and the owners. The basis of the disagreement is how to split the NFL’s $9 billion revenue pie. They need to quit their petty bickering, and come to some equitable agreement.

I think one of the things most people forget is that not only would a lockout affect the players, but also ushers, concession stand attendants, ground crews, security, waiters, waitresses, hotel staff and others. It’s estimated that about 150,00 people would be out of work if there isn’t a season next autumn.

The last thing the owners and the players need is a reason to lose the loyalty of their fans. It’s not worth the risk; neither side will benefit from a lockout. They need to wake up and realize that, before March 4, or more importantly, before it’s too late.

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