I have a new column up over at the Huffington Post that takes a closer look at what might happen as we get closer to a lockout in the NFL. Here is an excerpt. You can find the full column here… And, if you are looking for a summary of the major work stoppages in pro sports history, you can click here…
It's all a guessing game at this point, but what is the likelihood of an extended work stoppage?
As we get closer to the expiration of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement, the great unanswered questions remain: Will there be a work stoppage? And, if so, how long will it last? It's anyone's guess as to when the two sides will reach an agreement (and everyone is guessing), but looking back at the past is often a good way to predict the future. And, a closer look at the "doomsday" work stoppages of the past -- where at least one regular season game was canceled -- reveals a fairly clear trend. Significant work stoppages occurred when one side was looking for a sea change--some radical transformation of the relationship between the parties. For example, in 1998-99, the NBA owners insisted on (and got) a cap on maximum player salaries. The owners locked out the players and 464 total games were canceled, including the NBA All-Star Game. In 1994-95, the MLB owner insisted on (and did not get) a salary cap. The players went on strike and 920 games were canceled, including the postseason and the World Series. In the best professional sports work stoppage movie of all time, the 2000 movie The Replacements (the Detroit News raved, "it's better than average"), professional football players went on strike late in the season, apparently because of "salary disputes" (it's not clear who got what, but Shane Falco did save the day).
And, most recently, in 2004-2005, the NHL owners insisted on (and got) a salary cap. The owners locked out the players and the entire season was cancelled, including the playoffs and the Stanley Cup. Other lengthy work stoppages were caused by fights regarding basic rights of free agency for the players. In each of these cases, one side claimed that the current system was broken (see the chart here for more details).
In the current negotiations, we're not dealing with fights over the creation of free agency or the implementation of a salary cap. The players have free agency and the owners have a cap. But, are the owners asking for a sea change? That's a difficult question. One could make an argument that the NFL's latest proposal for a rookie wage scale--which could actually impact a majority of NFL players--would represent something close to a sea change. But, despite the NFL's proposal, it's difficult for anyone to argue--even the owners--that the system is broken. The NHL owners were willing to cancel an entire season because they believed they lost less money by not playing games than by playing games. That is certainly not the situation facing the owners and their multi-billion dollar television deals.
So, if the past is any guide, we may not be looking at a major work stoppage for the NFL...