Last night the NFL season kicked off as the defending Superbowl Champion New Orleans Saints played the Minnesota Favres in a rematch of last year’s NFC Championship game, yielding the same result: a Saints victory.
Before the game, however, players on both teams made a statement by holding up one finger as a solidarity gesture. The move was intended to show that the NFL players union is united (duh, as “union” implies) in the intense debate over a new labor deal with NFL owners where both sides will end up with a ton of money.
The NFL money fight is front & center instead of behind closed doors, where it needs to be. Fans who supply the league with dollars want to see football, not financial frustration.
Unfortunately, the fans don’t get a chance to collectively give the middle finger to the entire NFL: players and owners alike.
The gesture reminded the fans that the NFL Players Association is ready to fight. An upcoming threat of a lockout following the 2010 season, if a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) isn’t reached before April, 2011, was brought to attention, displayed on center stage opening night on the same day that the New England Patriots agreed to pay star quarterback Tom Brady $72 million ($48.5 million guaranteed) over the next 4 years.
Meanwhile, fans live in the raging recession where now more than ever, with ticket prices skyrocketed and HD televisions offering spectacular views, watching the game at home is the preference. And the fans feed the billion-dollar business that is the NFL. There is no reason that the massive stacks of money the NFL brings in can’t be divided fairly. But at the same time, the fans don’t get anything comforting and find no compassion in watching the players and owners work on exactly how to share the extraordinary funds in front of them.
The truth is, in the Great Recession the NFL is still squeezing their fans for the most they can get. While players and owners turn up the greed and fight for the money, it’s the fans that are getting locked out. High prices push fans out of the stadium, NFL Network limits the access fans have to games and misbehaving players that are the anti-role models of a generation discourage fans from purchasing merchandise.
Sure, Ben Roethisberger’s suspension has been cut back since he’s been on good behavior, not raping anyone lately. But even one episode of HBO’s series Hard Knocks shows an Antonio Cromartie who stumbles through trying to name his eight children, from six different women and a former Superbowl MVP Santonio Holmes who will sit the first four games for violating the substance abuse policy. It’s clear that the majority of players aren’t spending their salaries positively off-the-field.
Merchandise is one part of the business that is the very lucrative NFL. A business that has ignored the distressed economy their consumers live in is not gaining any customer satisfaction points by drawing attention to their inability to share a fortune.
And the fans have no center stage prime-time opportunity to flick off their beloved football league for forgetting who puts both sides of the NFL in the position to have greedy fights over an incredible amount of money to have the best jobs in the world.