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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