MIAMI (CBS4) – March 3 may not be an important day for many people, but for NFL fans, it will either be the day the lockout was avoided, or the day professional football stopped.
That day, owners will emerge from their annual meetings in Fort Lauderdale and either call for a lockout of the players if negotiations are not progressing sufficiently, or back away from the ledge and work for a new deal with the players.
The collective bargaining agreement between the players union and the league expires at midnight on March 4. Negotiations between the two had been ongoing until last week when talks broke down during a contentious meeting.
During that meeting, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson was reportedly disrespectful and condescending to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, according to Yahoo! Sports.
According to Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports, after a heated exchange between Manning and Richardson, former player Sean Morey tried to change the conversation to the problem of concussions and health care for players. All this did was enrage Richardson.
“You guys made so much [expletive] money – if you played three years in the NFL, you should own your own [expletive] team,” Richardson said, according to Silver.
The situation was reportedly so bad that other owners apologized to the players after the incident. The players are saying that Richardson, who is one of the leading advocates of a lockout to impose the league’s will on the players, needs to be removed from the negotiating team of the owners.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, that’s unlikely to happen due to the fact that Richardson helped current NFL commissioner Roger Goodell get his job. But the situation did expose the rift that is developing between owners as much as the rift between the players and owners.
Owners like Richardson and Jerry Jones want a bigger share of the money than they currently receive. The owners get $1 billion off the top of the revenue and then split the rest with the players on a 60-40 basis.
That 60 percent is what has owners irked. They feel as though they got a bad deal last time and are willing to sacrifice the game rather than open their books to the players and come to an agreement.
The players reportedly offered a 50-50 split with the owners, but the owners and the league walked away from the table and negotiations haven’t been ongoing since that session.
On the other hand, owners like Robert Kraft of the New England Patriots are pushing for a deal and want to avoid a labor stoppage. The last time there was a labor stoppage in the NFL was 1987. Since then, the NHL and MLB have both canceled part or all of a season and the NBA has also had a work stoppage.
During that time, the NFL has ascended to the top of the professional sports world and has brought unprecedented profits to players, owners, and the television networks. But, the owners want more and so do the players, who don’t want to give up too much.
Until a new collective bargaining agreement is reached, the NFL is essentially in a state of deep freeze. Teams won’t make roster moves until they figure out what the rules governing those moves are under the new CBA.
So for a team like the Miami Dolphins, they can’t address any of their pending free agents, plan for bringing in new free agents, or even putting the roster together until the new CBA is reached.
Until the owners and the players come to an agreement, there will be no NFL. Luckily for sports fans, March Madness and the NBA are still here and baseball season is just around the corner.