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.