Antitrust The NFL 2011 Lockout Labor Mess


Now that the Super Bowl is over, it's time for the really big game: the labor battle between National Football League owners and players.

The NFL's collective bargaining agreement, which governs how much players can make, what teams can spend on payrolls, and much more, is set to expire in March. Despite sweetheart deals with publicly financed stadiums and hefty national television contracts, owners say they are being bled dry by runaway salaries and tight economic times. They're looking to extend the regular season to 18 games and for players to forego $7 billion in potential pay increases over the next seven seasons. The players, represented by the federally certified NFL Players Association, want to see the owners' books, more pay for extra games, and other concessions.

Given the amount of money in play, Vegas oddsmakers are betting heavy that the owners will lock out players for the first time since 1987, when a work stoppage shortened the season by a game. In 1982, similar problems led to just nine regular-season games being played.

But don't mistake this for a classic showdown between management and labor hashing out differences on an even playing field. Given the amount of public money in play through stadium deals and the fact that individual players must negotiate collectively through the government-certified NFLPA, federal regulations have almost guaranteed a nasty, sudden-death battle.

How things will shake out is far from certain, but this much is a lock: If the 2011 NFL season is scrapped in part or in whole, the real goat will be government meddling in what should be a purely private negotiation among millionaires and billionaires.

Approximately 3 minutes.

Produced by Austin Bragg.

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  1. I think the players will blink. They’ve got way more to lose than the owners (particularly since TV revenues are guaranteed even if the season’s canceled) and the players are far less unified than the owners are. With the amount of stupid athletes living paycheck-to-paycheck despite eight-figure incomes, I think they’ll cave in.

    1. How did anyone ever convince the TV networks to sign up for that? I can’t even imagine how much money Fox, CBS, NBC, and ESPN would lose without an NFL season.

      1. That just tells you how valuable those TV rights are to the networks. I couldn’t imagine agreeing to that, but if it’s between your network and a rival and that’s what it takes to get the deal done, I guess that’s what you do.

      2. My understanding is that if there’s a work stoppage that actually causes games to be missed, the networks will get the money on the back end.

        1. The NFL is for suckers.


  2. That’s great info but what I want to know is who will be the Vikings QB next year?

    1. Rich Gannon

    2. Joe Montana

    3. Although, it could be one of the Mannings. ARCHIE Manning.

      1. been there done that.

        1. Fran Tarkenton?

          1. maybe fran tarkenton jr.

    4. Cam Newton.

      1. only if his dad negotiates his contract.

        1. That goes without saying.

    5. Who gives a shit.

    6. No matter who, he’s losing to Green Bay home & away! (if they play)

    7. If there is a lockout and they use scabs, bet on Shane Falco.

      1. It’s too bad Johnny Utah blew out his knee.

      1. He’s “The Toughest Chicano”!!

  3. An 18-game schedule is such a very, very bad idea.
    1. It pushes the start to before the unofficial end of summer (Labor Day weekend)
    2. The league is already in a position where they look weak on head injuries
    3. 16 weeks is a long season, injury-wise. Ask the Colts or the Saints what their opening day roster looked like and what it looked like as they got knocked out of the playoffs.
    4. Not 2 years ago, the league bitched about having meaningless games for playoff teams at the end of the regular season. A longer year only exacerbates the problem.
    5. And this may be the most irritating reason: It only helps season ticket holders. They get 1 more regular season game “for free” since they already had to pay for the preseason game it replaces. Nobody else wins. The owners are assuming that the TV contracts will throw in more money, but that’s not a guarantee until the new contracts come up for bid again as I understand it.

    1. #1 wont happen. Mid Feb super bowl instead.

    2. Never mind the regular season, what about the ridiculous number of teams in the playoffs? They should play a fall season with 4 divisions of 8 teams, double round robin (14 game season), have the 4 division champs play off for the fall championship, then do the same all over in the spring with re-sorted divisions. That’s right, 2 seasons a year. No games in Jan., Feb., July, or Aug., not even exhibitions. No wild cards.

      1. In all sports, the wild card is an abomination. Football might have an argument for a single wild card team (because of the short schedule), but I say the world would be better off without the whole business.

        It’s flat-out stupid in baseball. 162 games for what?

        1. I’m torn on that one, because nothing is more exciting than a September playoff race. But yeah, at the very least, there should be significant playoff disadvantages built in for a Wild Card team.

          And I’d rather see them go back to 2 divisions per league than shorten the regular season, a suggestion I’ve heard in more than one place.

          1. (talking baseball there, if it wasn’t clear)

            1. I think the two divisions per league format was the best. With no wild card nonsense.

          2. Lose 40 games and you can have a July playoff race. And then you don’t have to worry about snow in the World Series.

            Fuckin’ baseball, why does it suck?

    3. And this may be the most irritating reason: It only helps season ticket holders. They get 1 more regular season game “for free” since they already had to pay for the preseason game it replaces.

      As a season ticket holder, let me just say: FUCK YOU. I’m not getting shit for free. To the contrary, every year I’ve been forced to buy tickets to two games I don’t want and don’t give a shit about. The fact that I will now get one more game I want and one fewer game I don’t want doesn’t mean I’m getting anything for free. And why is it so irritating for you that I’ll now only throw $136* out the window instead of $272*?

      * Last year’s prices; this year I’m sure it will be more.

      1. I should qualify my statement above: I haven’t been forced to do shit. “[R]equired to buy tickets to two games…” would be accurate, however, and I believe my point stands.

      2. You can always give them to poor college kids. My ex got offered a pair of preseason Pats tickets from her aunt but she turned them down because it was a Thursday and she didn’t think I’d want to “take off a day from school and drive all the way to her house just to watch Brady play one quarter.” Needless to say I was unimpressed.

    4. 16 weeks is a long season, injury-wise. Ask the Colts or the Saints what their opening day roster looked like and what it looked like as they got knocked out of the playoffs.

      Or ask the Packers, who had 15 players on IR, yet still won the Super Bowl. 🙂

      (That having been said, I hate the idea of the 18-game season.)

  4. They deserve each other.

  5. Did anyone hear what Bill Maher said about football and socialism? He is so stupid it hurts.

    1. In his partial defense, his trope about football and socialism has been bandies about by the owners themselves. That said, he fails to realize that while money definitely helps, money doesn’t guarantee success. Ask the NY Mets and the Minnesota Twins how much money has set their fate in stone. Heck, ask the NY Yankees. One of the little known facts about the team was that George Steinbrenner didn’t have much free capital to spend on the team, so he had to leverage cash flows to get working capital…to great effect.

      1. And that profit sharing is perfectly capitalistic as long as contracts are voluntary. Moore makes this mistake all the time too. Under capitalism you can try any number of incentive models and none of them are socialistic unless they find a way around “at will” employment.

        1. Well for one, it’s not profit sharing between owners and employees that is the problem – that’s done all the time — it’s the profit sharing between competing business owners that is the problem.

          Besides, it’s not really capitalism when the number of teams is artificially restrained by the owners to boost their value which allows them to extract huge concessions from cities who are afraid to lose (or who want to gain) one of these very (aritificially) rare assets. It’s the colusion among owners that is the heart of the problem, a problem that is not helped by the colusion of players.

          1. The various NFL teams are not competing companies. The product that they produce is not the team. The product that they produce is the competition itself, and they produce it jointly and cooperatively.

            The number of teams is not artificially restrained or even restrained at all. There is absolutely nothing that prevents me from starting my own team. Hell, the kids in the neighborhood where I grew up used to start our own football teams all the time. Of course, that didn’t mean that the Giants had to play us, nor should it.

            1. The number of professional teams, you mean. Not the number of NFL teams. That’s clearly restrained by the owners themselves.

  6. Interesting that has chimed in. I do have a question though. Has anyone figured out how much player salaries are helped out by stadium public financing? Think about it. Every dollar that goes into subsidies ultimately frees up capital to pay for players. Is there anything out there that explains the impact? Also, I’m wondering how much collective bargaining has an impact on salary structures. Despite the lack of (strong) player unions, soccer players in Europe can make salaries comparable to their American counterparts.

    1. How are the soccer stadiums financed?

      1. Varies. In days of yore, they were primarily privately funded. There have been some public funding of recent new stadiums, but much less than here.

        1. It also varies by country. In France almost all stadiums are subsidized by government.

          1. In France taking a shit is subsidized by the government.

    2. So NFL football players are not able to negotiate their own multi-million dollar contracts something that is the norm in wsports and entertainment where name is worth as much as ability bacuase of anti-trust laws and union certification. Wow WTF

      1. Well, there are standard minimums in terms of royalties that are from union contracts, but broadly speaking you’re right.

  7. Unlike the shutdowns in the 80’s, there’s just way too much money on the table for it to happen again.

    It’s just a big bluff.

    One that might work.

  8. I just don’t care. I’ll be annoyed if they don’t actually play a full (not 18 games, for the love of God!) season, but not so much that I’m going to worry about it. Besides, scab football amuses me.

    1. But scab football may not be as interesting if everybody knows the whole season’s going to be like that. It was fun when the scab teams had to be assembled in a hurry and it wasn’t clear whether the games would count, so teams were more willing to take chances and have fun with it. When they have too long to think about it, it’s not so much fun.

      1. I recall a team running the wishbone

    2. I understand there is something in the old collective bargaining agreement that somehow prevents the owners from using replacement players this time.

  9. For all the money we pay to access, can’t you make the videos better? Nice pixels.

    1. Gimme 1440p goddammit!

  10. 1. It pushes the start to before the unofficial end of summer (Labor Day weekend)

    I believe the owner’s plan is to still start the season the weekend after Labor Day. That would push the Super Bowl back to President’s Day weekend.

    1. Correct. They tried starting Labor Day weekend previously and the TV ratings tanked.

    2. WTF? I don’t get the point of playing football deep into February. I know I’ve heard a few voices asking for that because it would lead to the Super Bowl coinciding with a 3 day weekend, thus allowing people to enjoy the game without taking time off of work the next day for celebrating. That said, it seems pennywise and pound foolish.

      1. Here’s a solution: Super Bowl Saturday.

        1. Plus fucking one. Why didn’t that happen long ago?

          The best weekends of the NFL season are those first couple playoff weekends with the Saturday games.

          1. It’s on my list of things to do if I ever become Supreme Overlord of Earth. Right after killing the DH and right before banning reality shows from TV.

            1. If this is your platform, you have my vote. Or sword. Whatever is needed.

              1. Stand ready!

            2. You could have a reality show where they actually kill the DH’s. I’d watch that.

          2. Better TV ratings at 6PM ET Sunday than on Saturday night.

      2. I’m torn on the February Super Bowl, specifically regarding the scheduled 2014 SB. Football is at it’s best in the elements. Personally, I favor snow, but rain or extreme winds are good. Domes are for fucking pussies.

        I think if the weather is awful at Giants stadium (sorry JETS fans, but it’s true), that would be one of the best Super Bowls. Unfortunately, I’m worried that it will encourage every team to try and create a huge boondoggle of a stadium just so that they can host a future Super Bowl. We already see what happened at Jerry Jones’ monstrosity because he wanted to break the record for attendance.

        There are so many stadiums in the U.S. already, this is ridiculous, more so because very rarely do they use all private money. I am really hoping Minnesota just ends up playing their home games at the University field where they played the Bears.

        A quick anecdote: I am so disgusted by the public financing of stadiums that when I relocated my team in Madden ’10 I used all of my own money, much to the misfortune of my future players’ contracts.

        1. I love snow games. Might be biased because New England is even better in the snow than usual.

  11. I just hope they get replacement teams again. That was more interesting.

    1. An ex-boyfriend of my sister was a replacement player. He was one of the ones that made the team post-strike. He only lasted 1-2 more seasons.

      1. Then again, I’m one of the few who used to go to a lot of minor league games, men’s & women’s. Past few years I’ve lost my taste as a spectator from coaching children.

    2. Just as long as it doesn’t lead to another football movie starring Keanu Reeves.

      1. But without terrible movies like The Replacements to show on weekends, how will Ted Turner make money while he’s waiting on new shit from Tyler Perry?

        1. I just watch Turner Classic Movies.

  12. The NFL is evil and must be destroyed. I just want some fucking football with no TV timeouts. Is that too much to ask?

    1. It’ll happen when we reach the grail of robot players.

      1. Fox Sports appears to be developing that.

    2. I just want some fucking football with no TV timeouts.

      I’m sure there are plenty of games you can go to that aren’t televised.

      1. They will still have TV timeouts (or “media timeouts”) anyway, just to keep the timing of all the games predictable.

        1. Lower level college games dont.

          1. Kinda fun to see the wishbone in action.

        2. Keep the timing “predictable”?! If there’s no broadcast or cablecast, everyone just wants to get done ASAP, especially the officials who time the games, and double especially if someone else is waiting to use the field. There are no media timeouts at games where there are no media.

          1. In college there are. You know those tv timeouts that are scheduled at 6 minutes to go (or whenever) in the first quarter, etc.? Those happen at all games in a conference whether they are televised or not (some minor DIII conferences that have no televised games at all may not use them). Coaches and ADs demand this because it means the stoppages are more consistent every week. These are put in by conference rules, so it’s not up to the whim of the referee whether to call them or not.

            Also, almost every college team in the land has some sort of live media broadcast–usually web streaming.

  13. I hope there’s a strike this season and the egos get shit. Fuck boring ass professional football.

    Did anyone else notice how the super bull was unusually pathetic this year?

    1. Amen. God, how I detest the NFL. It’s fucking professional wrestling dressed up as a sport, leeching off the credibility and integrity that comes with the term. I can’t believe Americans have fallen for this shit en masse.

      I’ll be thrilled with a lockout. I’ve got 80 or so years on this planet — is enjoying just one of them football-free too much to ask?!

    2. Yeah, who wants to see the best athletes in the world compete violently in a tactically complex sport in a league that actually has a winning team? Shit sucks.

      1. Yeah, who wants to see the best athletes in the world compete violently in a tactically complex sport in a league that actually has a winning team?

        Most humans around the globe, considering the lack of interest outside America’s borders. For that matter, most humans in America before 1970.

        People like you talk about this stuff as if it represents some sort of timeless perfection, like it’s somehow obvious and preordained. The shit’s been popular for four decades. Christ. It’s arbitrary. It’s happenstance. It will eventually change.

        1. May Tim Tebow forgive you.

        2. Tosh.O explained why soccer is more enjoyed best.

          Nothing can help me care about soccer. Oh, ‘it’s the most popular sport in the world.’ Probably because it’s cheap to play. It costs a ball. Once every four years, America pretends to care about it. And yes, I call it ‘soccer.’ Don’t correct me because I don’t care what they call it in other lands ? I speak America.

          Sorry world, we already have football and it’s way better. It’s supposed to be played by 300 pound men eight seconds at a time, not five-foot, six-inch fairies lightly jogging for three hours, or however long your game is?buy a scoreboard!

          It’s hard for me to get into a sport that I mastered at the age of seven. Excuse me for not being able to get revved up for this corner kick that never works. Hooray! The game ends without a single goal. I want to kill myself when an NBA team doesn’t break a hundred. That’s because you don’t get a free taco.

          Maybe there would be more scoring if they weren’t flopping all of the time. And hooligans, instead of killing players that screwed up, murder the ones that fall down crying because their toe got stepped on.

          The only good thing about soccer is the movie “Ladybugs.” That’s a classic. Don’t try to re-do it, Hollywood. I love women’s soccer. It’s a beautiful game, and America is actually good at it. Probably because we’re the only country that allows women to wear shorts.

          It’s nice to have an activity that terrorist countries can excel at. Enjoy your 15 minutes, Algeria. Then go back to being number one at car bombs. But just know that the only reason you’re beating us is because our best athletes are busy playing real sports. You think LeBron James might make an okay goalie? Oh, and good move, giving us Beckham ten years past his prime. That really panned out.

          1. Er… what the fuck does soccer have to do with anything?

          2. That was hilarious.

          3. righteous screed, dude…

  14. I hate the NFL the way some people hate Walmart. Build your own goddam stadiums, you rent-seeking bastards.

  15. Meanwhile, Lowe’s and Home Depot are looking forward to record Fall sales.

  16. This is why college football is superior entertainment. Once we destroy the BCS and institute a playoff (by my calculations, this should occur within the next 3 weeks), it will be perfected.

    1. It will be perfected when private clubs get tax treatment parity with colleges.

    2. No need to argue about salaries and benefits when all of the players are essentially indentured servants.

      1. Say, maybe they should adapt the NCAA model to the pros!

    3. College football blows. No real champion, no real sport.

      1. I like the game. But I don’t like the polls, the press, or, most especially, the joke of a post-season. It was better when the national championship didn’t really exist. Unless we get true playoffs, the whole business is a joke.

      2. Wait, so you’re saying all games that don’t figure toward a championship aren’t really sport? That must be well over 99% of all competetive sports.

        1. No, I’m saying that a league that has no method of determining a champion is a waste of time.

  17. I remember way back when I was in elementary school, the teachers always complained about how much pro athletes were paid vs how much they were paid. They also used to tell us how much more important their job was.

    I guess they didn’t see how those kids they were feeding that bullshit too would eventually grow up and see how self-serving those comments were….

    1. The players should ask the owners to do that. I mean, pay teachers millions across the nation. Just to screw with the owners.

      1. Pay the top 1590 teachers in the country big salaries and make the rest of them try out year after year for a roster spot at the local public school.

        1. And then the teachers that don’t get hired back the following year can peddle their services in Canada or Europe.

          1. or maybe Arena League schools…

        2. We’ll have to up the injury rate too. Can students start tackling teachers every 30-40 seconds?

      2. The funny thing is, NFL players have exactly the deal that union thugs in other fields want: a set percentage of the revenues.

    2. I once heard a surgeon piss and moan about how much Greg Maddux was being paid compared to him. So I asked the surgeon, “how many people pay to watch you operate?” He either didn’t have a comeback or didn’t understand my point.

      1. Also ask the surgeon how much risk s/he’d be willing to take re: grievous body injuries.

  18. who’s the better quarterback, Johnny Utah or Shane Falco?

  19. Replace with Lingerie Football.
    With breakaway uniforms of course.

  20. “…the owners will lock out players for the first time since 1987, when a work stoppage shortened the season by a game.”

    Just for the record, the NFL may have gone dark for only one game, but some of the games that were played were played by scabs.

    As I recall, there were about four weeks of games played by scabs.

    I think a similar stoppage would probably be more devastating for the NFL owners today. Back in ’87, hardly anyone played fantasy football, and hardly anyone watched games unless they involved the home team.

    Now that fantasy has become such a big deal, driving people to watch so many games that have nothing to do with their home team…I suspect Direct TV’s NFL package is half fantasy football freaks like your truly.

    You can’t just drop your whole fantasy squad for four weeks, pick up scabs for four weeks, and then pick up the team you originally drafted when they come back and start playing again! Fantasy just doesn’t work that way.

    So, anyway, the stakes are a lot higher for the owners this time. The lost revenue is gonna be huge. …they’ll take a bigger hit than last time, for sure.

    1. “Fantasy just doesn’t work that way.”

      Something about that statement makes me laugh….

  21. The thought of a lockout or strike just makes me smile. I think of all those cities that forked out hundreds of millions for stadiums that will go empty and imagine the pols trying to explain about the “spinoff benefits” from hosting a major league team.

    Maybe we could rent the stadiums for public executions of the pols who promoted them.

  22. I do not understand the people who are willing to pay the insanely exorbitant price to see an NFL game. I know a lot of the tickets are bought by corporations, but jeez, it’s still insane…

  23. Football. Puss time.

    Go Wings.

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