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PORTSIDE  November 2010, Week 4

PORTSIDE November 2010, Week 4

Subject:

Austerity & Lockout Threats Roil NFL & NBA

From:

Portside Moderator <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Thu, 25 Nov 2010 11:12:05 -0500

Content-Type:

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (189 lines)

Austerity & Lockout Threats Roil NFL & NBA

(Two Takes)

(1)

"It's Bigger Than Professional Football"

Talking with NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith

By Dave Zirin
The Nation
November 22, 2010

http://www.thenation.com/blog/156606/its-bigger-professional-football-talking-nflpa-president-demaurice-smit

This past week, Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross
showed why many owners choose to let National Football
League Commissioner Roger Goodell do their talking for
them.  Ross spoke out for the logic of extending the
current 16 game season to 18 games, saying, "The
additional games, the studies show will not really
increase injuries. We're still playing 20 games, we're
eliminating two preseason games and adding two regular-
season games, which is really what helps with the
revenues, and make the fans a lot happier and those
games will be a lot more meaningful. But in terms of
the players, they're still playing 20 games."

The idiocy of this argument is dizzying. Of course more
games will mean more injuries. Of course even someone
who wouldn't know Tom Brady from Tommy Tune could
surmise the differences in intensity between preseason
and an actual football game. It's like comparing a
tofurky to the real deal. These comments were
especially galling coming from Ross, whose Dolphins are
injury depleted to the point where their starting
quarterback is third stringer Tyler Thigpen.

NFL Players Association President DeMaurice Smith
wasted no time striking back at Ross. "Comments like
that tell me that they just don't get it," he said.
"Their teammates lost two franchise quarterbacks in the
same game ... and the message is we shouldn't worry
about adding two more games? Men are not expendable and
neither are their families." This question about
whether to extend the season by two extra games has
become one of the great sticking points in the ongoing
negotiations aimed at avoiding a 2010 lockout in the
country's most popular sport.

I asked Smith two weeks ago about the owners' push for
an 18 game season and whether it was a deal-breaker in
the current negotiations. He said, "Our only strong
stance is about signing a new collective bargaining
agreement. That's it.  I'm willing to discuss anything
that guarantees that football continues for our
players. There's an 18 game proposal from the NFL that
we have looked at - we're going to respond to it,- but
there are some things that are inviolate.  When I show
up at a team meeting and I've got half the guys sitting
in a conference room wrapped up in ice, three or four
guys already on crutches, well anybody who wants to
know how brutal this game is, show up at a team meeting
on a Monday morning after a Sunday game where you watch
some of the best athletes in the world tip-toe down two
steps , where if you want to shake hands, you had
better be gentle. So it's not an enhanced season, as
the owner's call it. It's two more end of the season
games where players are already beat up, nicked up, and
knocked out."

It's this heightened awareness of injuries and the
owners desire to throw on two new games without
increased compensation that has the two sides in a
Buffalo Stance. I asked Smith in May, on a scale of
1-10, what the chances were for a lockout to start the
2011 season. He put it at a 14.  When I asked Smith
again, he said, "Still at 14... We are still far away
from a deal being signed by the deadline in March. Just
[five] weeks ago the NFL informed us that they were
going to cancel the NFL players and their family's
health insurance in March if a lock-out occurs if
you're sitting where I'm sitting and you want to know
if a lock-out is on the table, I'm not sure that any
player in the National Football League would disagree
with me that there's a strong likelihood that this is
going to happen."

The scheduled canceling of health care benefits for
players and their families has been received by the
players as a heartless, aggressive act, especially with
the recent avalanche of press stories about the
physical toll of playing the game. "Our players risk
everything on the field," he said. "There's been a lot
of media coverage of the helmet to helmet hits, over
the last few weeks, and the cover of Sports Illustrated
is about concussions...There has been recently a great
deal of concern expressed by ownership about it. The
thing that we wanted to point out to our fans is that
the NFL, right now as we speak, has sued 262 players
over their workers comp.  It still takes at least a
three year NFL career to get any health care after you
retire.  We had to fight legislation from a team last
year to take away workers comp from the players who
play the game, being notified in March that their
health insurance will be canceled.  The players, and
likely their families, are saying 'How can you express
a concern about health and safety, after watching four
hits on Sunday, and then snap your fingers and say that
health care is over in March?' It seems both
hypocritical and misleading... They put out a press
release about larger fines, larger punishments, perhaps
suspensions, but oh by the way, ignore the fact that
we're going to cancel the health insurance for people
who have kids, at least two players whose kids are in
need of heart transplants.  We have several who have
kids on kidney dialysis.  Right now we as a union are
trying to figure out how to provide supplemental health
insurance for the players families."

Most strikingly, at the end of our discussion, Smith
made an open plea to involve fans in struggle to avoid
a lockout and made clear that this issue transcends
sports. "Fans [who want to help] can go to
NFLOCKOUT.com [1]. We will send people to speak at any
union meetings or community meetings.... Only the
owners make money when there is a lockout, making four
billion dollars from the networks and paying nothing in
salaries. But everybody else loses. Every city would
lose about a hundred and fifty million a year in
revenue. Every city will lose jobs. It's bigger than
professional football. We all have an interest to avoid
a lockout."

[Dave Zirin is the author of "Bad Sports: How Owners
are Ruining the Games we Love" (Scribner) Receive his
column every week by emailing [log in to unmask]
Contact him at [log in to unmask]]

(2)


[Meanwhile in hoop news]

In N.B.A. Union Chief's View, a Lockout Is Imminent

By Howard Beck
New York Times
November 22, 2010

An N.B.A. labor stoppage next summer is all but
inevitable, and the players are preparing accordingly,
the head of the players union said Monday.

"I'd be 99 percent sure as of today that there will be
a lockout," Billy Hunter, the executive director of the
National Basketball Players Association, said in an
interview at his Harlem office. "I've said, `Save your
money because in all probability there's going to be a
lockout.' "

It was the most dire prediction that Hunter has issued
since the league and the union began discussing a new
collective bargaining agreement to replace the deal
that expires in July.

For Complete story:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/23/sports/basketball/23hunter.html?ref=howard_beck

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