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As I sit here a few hours before my beloved Green Bay Packers face our hated rivals — the Chicago Bears — for the right to play in Super Bowl XLV, I am struck at the thought of what will happen after the season ends and all the teams are finished. If you have been following the news headlines this past year, you know there is a very real possibility there will not be an NFL season for 2011-12. NFL Players Association Executive Director, DeMaurice Smith, said this past winter when asked about the possibility of there not being NFL football for 2011, that on a scale of one to ten, he’d give it a fourteen there would not be.
For those who aren’t aware, the problem is that the NFL’s current collective bargaining agreement is set to expire this coming March. The bigger problem is that if a new collective bargaining agreement is not reached, then fans, coaches, and players could be looking at a “lockout” for the 2011-12 season. There have been several sticking points over which players and owners have clashed, including whether to extend the regular season by two games, whether to have a rookie salary cap, and the increase of long-term benefits — such as health care — for players after they finish their careers in the league. On top of that, there have also been a plethora of accusations thrown back and forth. The owners claim the players don’t understand the NFL business model and declining profits, while the players say the owners don’t care whether there is football or not because, regardless of whether a single down is played, the owners still stand to make $5 billion from their network television deals.
This week, the players fired their most recent salvo against the owners, claiming they have been colluding together to limit the players’ salaries. This means that the case now takes on a distinct antitrust feel as the players try and plead their case against the owners in front of Judge Stephen Burbank. If the players are not successful on this front, I would imagine this issue goes back to the negotiating table as the two sides try to settle outside of the court system — and in time to have a football season this fall. However, since the two parties have admittedly not been willing to meet since last November, it does not seem likely that either side will be willing to give in any time soon. If that continues, I really hope the Packers win the Super Bowl this season, because otherwise I’ll be left with a bad taste in my mouth for much longer than just the off season.
– Richard Jacques
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