2011 Lockouts Tarnish NFL and NBA Images
The NBA season seemed to be in jeopardy. Dire jeopardy. The National Basketball Player’s Association (NBPA) had decided to take their case to court, almost certainly ending any possibility of a 2011-2012 season, before a last minute deal miraculously saved what’s left of the season . Meanwhile, football fans are enjoying a great NFL season, but remember the worry they felt during the spring and summer lockout which threatened to get in the way of the season until the players and owners made a deal. While the football season pushes on and the NBA season comes back from the grave, the fans look back on a 2011 year filled with greed, multiple lawsuits, and a lot of whining.
That these players and owners actually had arguments about money is questionable to say the least considering the salaries the owners and advertisement bonuses both sides are going home with. The players attempts to improve working conditions, such as shorter contact practices and more time off, and the owners insistence on hard salary caps for more equal and balanced teams are reasonable. But the idea that players and owners who make millions of dollars a year are really arguing about their portions of their league’s income seems illogical to many fans. Ashley Fox of ESPN, when commenting on the NFL lockout said, “That the NFL Players Association had to decertify, that the owners had to lock out the players, that there had to be a halt to league business was just silly when everyone was making money hand over fist.”
It began on March 11, 2011, as the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement negotiations expired. What would become a five month lockout tore the NFL off-season apart. A lockout is a decision by league owners to stop all league functions, including practices and games and to stop paying the players until an agreement between the players and owners is reached.
The NFL’s previous collective bargaining agreement (CBA) held up until late February 2011, at which point the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) and the NFL owners began negotiating a new CBA. After two weeks, the two sides were so far apart on so many issues, that the NFLPA decided to disband as a union so players could be able to sue the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners in Anti-trust lawsuits. This means suing for unfair working conditions and low wages.
The owners were not open about what would was being done with the money they were supposed to be sharing with players. “I hate to say this, but Pash has not told the truth to our players or our fans. He has, in a word, lied to them about what happened today and what’s happened over the last two weeks and the last two years.” accused players union lawyer Jim Quinn about League General Council Jeff Pash in an interview with ESPN.
After the players attempts in court failed and more than a month of negotiations, the owners ratified a new CBA on July 21. After mulling over the new CBA proposal for four days and getting the owners to agree to a few changes, the re-certified NFLPA agreed to the new proposal and the lockout was lifted.
This new CBA guaranteed the owners over 50% of the total yearly income and a $20 million dollars in benefits. In return, the players coerced the owners to agree to a $120 million salary cap, a shorter off-season, a higher minimum salary, fewer contact practices, lower limits on practice times, and a guaranteed spend. The guaranteed spend, which guarantees that the owners spend all $120 million of their salary cap, was key for the players because it gives free agents a better chance of finding a new team.
When one lockout was drawing to a close, another was beginning. The NBA collective bargaining agreement expired June 30 and the lockout began. The NBA owners claimed to be losing money and tried to convince players to accept lower salaries. On the other hand, NBPA accused the owners of setting records with T.V. and ticket revenues and that only a few of the smaller market teams were losing money. Owners want a hard salary cap to prevent teams from being able to stack their rosters the way the Miami Heat did in the 2009 offseason. Meanwhile, the players wanted to protect their large percentage of the NBA’s income and a softer salary cap.
By September 23, the league announced the cancellation of the first 43 preseason games. On October 4, NBA’s head official, Commissioner David Stern, cancelled the rest of the preseason and the first two weeks of the regular season. After that, negotiations went back and forth with the latest proposal from the owners offering players a 50-50 split of the NBA’s income. Players agreed to splitting the income, but wanted the owners to relax the hard-salary cap and the harsh fines and penalties on teams who exceed the cap.
In the past two weeks, tension rose between the Union and the owners. In an interview with ESPN, Union Attorney Jeffrey Kessler accused the owners of treating the players “like plantation workers.” He later retracted and apologized for his statement, but the owners and commissioner David Stern were not happy for making an accusation that clearly brought in the race card. Nevertheless, negotiations continued.
It seems the latest negotiations were the final straw. The players and owners met one last time on November 14, but the players refused the owners offers, and finally decided to disband the union in order to be able to sue the league in federal court. This seemed to guarantee that the NBA season could not start for a few months, if at all, and was bad news for any fans who were hoping for a diplomatic solution.
Despite the settled negotiations, many of the fans have voiced their disdain for the numerous failures in negotiation between the players and the owners. On a comment board on the ESPN website, one fan wrote “I hope the NBA goes away forever. More time for real sports.” Another frustrated individual simply stated, “NBA players = embarrassments to society.”
Fans were not the only ones fed up with the proceedings. Many players who had had enough left to go play overseas in Europe and Asia. Players like T.J. Ford, J.R. Smith, J.J. Barea, Patty Mills and Goran Dragic, already took off to play for overseas teams, while more prominent players, like Dirk Nowitski, Dywane Wade, and Kevin Durant, had just recently began looking at potential foreign teams before the 2011-2012 season was given new hope.
On November 26, the players and owners met one last time before taking the matter to court. After 15 hours of negotiations, the players and owners came to an agreement and were able to save the 2011-2012 season. The season is set to begin on December 25, with 66 games total, instead of the usual 82. It seems the NBA, despite all the ridicule it has received from fans, has decided to give them a Christmas gift: the gift of a new season.
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