Colts players tee off on NFL commissioner

September 9, 2010
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Details now leaking out about a meeting last month at Indianapolis Colts training camp between Colts players and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell show just how serious the labor situation is.

The 2010 NFL season kicks off tonight, but there’s a growing group of people here in Indianapolis—where the 2012 Super Bowl is supposed to be played—more concerned about next year than this season.

If players and owners can’t hammer out a labor agreement in the next six months, there’s a very good possibility of a lockout, which could jeopardize—or at the very least delay—the 2012 Super Bowl.

Sources close to the team said when Colts players met last month with Goodell, and demanded to know what owners want concerning the labor negotiations, Goodell stonewalled them, saying he couldn’t answer that.

Goodell might have been expecting a friendly exchange when he swooped into Indianapolis for the last of several training camp visits in August. But several players swore at Goodell angrily. Peyton Manning, sources said, became upset with the treatment toward the commissioner and Colts center Jeff Saturday, an executive member of the players’ negotiating team, abruptly concluded the meeting as emotions—and tempers—flared.

If an agreement doesn’t get done, owners, who are asking players to take a pay cut, are promising to lock out the players.

Although NFL insiders said the vibe between owners and players’ union officials has improved “somewhat” since the blow-up at Colts camp, there has been no real progress toward crafting a new collective bargaining agreement.

Some owners are bent on breaking the union and locking players out and there are a number of NFL insiders who expect the rancorous rhetoric that reared its ugly head last month at Colts camp to intensify before this thing gets settled.

Making matters worse, owners are starting to fight with each other over revenue sharing. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and Broncos Pat Bowlen are leading the charge on this one.

Jones hates the system where the 15 wealthiest NFL teams subsidize the 17 poorest. Jones argues that some of the so-called poor owners don’t have nearly the overhead he does because they either have huge government subsidies for their stadium or they don’t upgrade like he has in Dallas. Worse yet, Jones said some teams actually try to stay among the poorest 17 so they can continue to get the subsidy.

If a deal isn’t worked out by March, NFL insiders said it’s almost certain these negotiations will be protracted and the season will be delayed—or even cancelled.

The Indianapolis populace has been told many times, fear not—there’s plenty of time to get a deal done.

Plenty of time? Define your terms.

Either way, the clock is ticking.

  • Owners are in control
    The owners have little to lose if there is a lockout verses the players. The last TV contract will still pay the owners even if there is a lockout and no football shown on TV. The owners were pretty smart in this latest TV deal. The players on the other hand don't have those assurances. This could get ugly with the owners holding all the cards at this point.
  • NFL TV deal
    There's been some misinformation out there about the NFL owners' TV deal. It's not as sweet as all that. Though it does provide them an insurance policy of sorts. Here's the real deal: The owners would continue to receive payments from DirecTV and the networks during a lockout â?? though the money would eventually have to be repaid via credits for future games. So the TV money loss would in fact come for owners, down the line.
  • Come on
    Who gives a you know what about a bunch of overpaid, egotistical guys who are lucky enough to be paid to play a stupid sport. There are lot more important issues than this. Let's all grow up and move on-take your millions and just play.
    • Maybe the Sky is Falling!
      So, season tix are down over the entire league for the 3rd straight year, the union and management are at polarizing odds, and the management factions are having internal grief. So, without a need for much insight, I would offer the obvious that a lock-down is inevitable. And if so, revenue availability will be in an accelerating free fall, in catapulting the downward trend which began 3 years ago. So, if the great middle class of U.S.'ers is indeed tightening their respective belt in addressing the economy, both union and management are predictably going to incur some significant collateral financial damage.

      But who among us doesn't feel that the players and coaches salaries are already out of line, and that the Owners' profitability is off the chart as well. Hard to sympathize with Jerry Jones of Dallas when he says he has to deal with so much overhead, since oddly enough, isn't he the one who fell on his financial sword by building his over-the-top and equally ostentatious playing facility??

    • Who cares? You should!
      For a reader of IBJ, I shouldnt have to explain this, but here goes.
      Yes, there are always 'more important' things like hunger, cancer, education, etc. But this IS important to many businesses, hotels, restaurants, and their employees as to whether there is a season next year or a SB in Indy. We dont live in a vacuum, so ultimately this huge chunk of Indy economy affects many people.
    • A Prediction
      As someone who has been closely involved with NFL legal and labor matters over the last 35 years, I have a prediction that I would be willing to bet on. It is inconceivable to me that a new labor agreement will be reached before the start of training camps next summer. Both the commissioner and the new executive director of the union got their jobs by appealing to the extreme elements in their constituent bases (kind of like the way Congress operates these days), both promising the more hard line elements in their constituencies that they would not the the patsies their predecessors were. Thus neither Roger Goodell nor DeMaurice Smith can politically afford to make any serious compromises or appear to be soft until their constituents start to recognize the real pain they could be facing. So my guess is that you'll see tempers flaring, rhetoric escalating, sports reporters writing volumes and taking sides, and the threat of a cancelled season looking likely right through next summer. The owners will almost certainly lock out the players from training camps, and it's possible that even the first couple of weeks of the 2011 season my be lost. But in the end, my guess is that both sides will realize that it makes no sense to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs, Goodell and Smith will start to make serious compromises, and some type of deal (short or long term) will be reached just in time to save the season and the Indianapolis Super Bowl. It's possible that insanity will prevail and the entire season lost -- the hockey folks shot themselves like this a few years ago. But my bet is the season will be salvaged at the last moment, although not a minute before. So hang on for a wild and crazy ride over the next twelve or so months.
      • absolutely
        I agree Joe... having worked downtown in the restaurant industry, I can't even imagine if there was all of sudden not going to be a colts season. Those were huge days for the restaurants, hotels, parking garages, and the mall. If all of a sudden that revenue was cut off, it would most definately lead to cut backs on staff. Plenty of people depend on those-at least- eight games a year for money, especially servers in downtown Indy who are in a crunch right now because the convention center has slowed due to construction. So saying that the NFL season being cancelled is not a big deal is the exact same thing as saying that it's no big deal if the banks go under. I don't believe in "too big to fail" but it doesn't mean it's not something to be concerned about.
      • Well said & logical craziness
        Gary Roberts' post says it all - especially the killing of the golden goose. Stay tuned for a handful of billionaires squabbling with a bunch of millionaires over an unfathomable pot of gazillions they mutually earn for playing a child's game.

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