NFL lockout possible in March
It’s possible that the NBA may not be the only major American sports league that could be locked out next season as there’s a good chance the National Football League may lock out its players at the start of the 2011 season. According to the players union chief DeMaurice Smith, a lockout would erase about $5 billion from the US economy in lost taxes, salaries, and other related income if the whole season is scrapped in an NFL lockout.
Smith added it could be devastating for the country because its unemployment rate is now at 9.6 per cent and he figures each NFL city would lose about $165 million. However, Greg Aiello, an NFL spokesman, didn’t agree with the monetary figures because they were union estimates and didn’t come from an independent agency.
The owners of NFL teams voted unanimously back in 2008 to end the labour contract with players when this season ends, which is two years before it expires. Meanwhile, the players wanted to see the contract run its natural course. But the owners of the 32 teams say it’s costing more to operate and/or build stadiums and they asked the union if the players could give up a total of $1 billion of their combined salaries. In response, the union asked the owners for proof that they need the money, and the owners refused to open their books to the players.
There are other issues too though. The league wants to reduce the money that rookies make as well as extend the regular season to 18 games from 16. Drug testing and health coverage are two other concerns. Smith stated that approximately 1,900 NFL players would be without health insurance if they were forced out of work when the contract expires in March of 2011. He also said there would be approximately 300 pregnant wives and numerous children who need medical procedures if insurance is lost.
But Aiello said if a lockout happens, the players are protected with health insurance as the federal government has a law in effect, known as COBRA, which states employees can keep getting healthcare benefits for several months as long as they pay the benefit premiums.
The NFL won’t be hurting for money though as they have signed broadcasting agreements with several networks that will still pay close to $4 billion broadcasting rights even if the games aren’t played. The union on the other hand has almost $200 million saved up in an emergency fund in case of a lockout. The league suffered from work stoppages before in the 1982 and 1987 NFL seasons.