It's May 3, 2011...do you know where your football team is? We are four months away from kickoff. Normally this is a time of excitement for NFL fans. Normally teams' identities are starting to take shape by now. Normally the speculation tearing up the message boards is which players will win the critical position battles in training camp. Not this year. No, this is the year of the lockout. It's labor versus management and nobody can say which side will emerge victorious. But just like the sport of mixed martial arts, you should never let it go to the judges.
Recently I decided to stage a hunger strike until the NFL owners ended their lockout of the players. Unfortunately I went mad with hunger 14 minutes into it and the strike ended. I have no further plans to protest; the owners' collective will is too strong. If I were you I'd grab a snack too because there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.
According to an article on ESPN.com, Monday saw the NFL owners file a brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes of extending the lockout. They're citing the precedent set in the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which bars federal courts from participating in labor disputes. According to the NFL, Judge Susan Nelson--who last week ruled that the lockout be lifted--was operating outside of her jurisdiction and as such, the lockout should remain in place.
If you're like me then you no doubt rejoiced at Judge Nelson's ruling last week, but in the end, what did it really accomplish? Not much it seems. As it stands, the lockout is back on pending the team owners' appeal of Nelson's ruling. And with the appeals process expected by some to drag on into the summer months, optimism for a normal start to the regular season is fading.
Thankfully, this past weekend gave every football fan a much needed shot in the arm. Amidst the endless updates of stalemates and cancelled negotiations between the players and owners came the NFL draft. Even some of the more cynical amongst us forgot about the labor problems for a little while and took a vacation to New York City, where every April, hope springs eternal. The draft let us talk about actual football again instead of union decertification, collective bargaining agreements, and revenue splits.
But the weekend is over, and just like any other Monday, it's back to the real world. And while most people tend to side with labor in situations such as these, it is management who make a point that can't be argued. This work stoppage will not end as the result of litigation. It will end when both parties return to the table to hammer out the details of the new collective bargaining agreement. It will end when both parties can agree on the issues that created this mess in the first place.
And while it was encouraging to see a new development (Judge Nelson's ruling that temporarily lifted the lockout) it appears that it has only delayed negotiations between the two sides further. So it's time for each side to return to the table, swallow a heaping helping of pride, and realize that what they're arguing over is how to split up $9 billion of revenue. Both sides must agree that it's time to stop digging their heels in and get back to work, whether they're wearing Italian loafers or cleats. No more antitrust suits. No more injunctions. No more appeals. Good faith negotiations must begin again, and both sides must agree to make concessions.
Because until they do, the league year cannot commence. Free agency cannot begin. Draft picks cannot be signed. Players cannot meet with position coaches or work out at team facilities. Offseason team activities and training camp cannot begin. And most importantly, the season cannot begin.
It's May 3, 2011, and I don't know where my football team is. The season is supposed to start on September 11th and time is running out. This weekend was a welcome dose of football. It is up to the owners and the players to make sure it won't be our last.