Life for the American sports fan is great. The NHL season has just begun, the most anticipated NBA season in years is starting to pick up steam, the NFL season is in full stride, and we’ve just witnessed baseball at its finest with the World Series. It’s hard to imagine things being any different around this time of the year. However, this moment of sports solace may be just the calm before the storm that is the looming lockouts of the NBA and the NFL next season. That’s right, we may not have football and basketball next year.
It’s been the big elephant in the room for the last couple of months now. Nobody talks about it, but everybody knows it’s there, waiting at the end of each respective season like that final paper for the class you’ve never done the readings for. Owners, players and fans alike are all waiting to see how things play out, using the current season as a blissful distraction for the ugly truth that these lockouts may actually happen. It’ll be the first time since 1987 for the NFL and the first time since 1999 for the NBA.
Here’s the situation: at the end of their respective seasons, the current collective bargaining agreements between the players union and the team owners will expire and unless a new agreement is reached, there will be no next season. The collective bargaining agreement is essentially a pact that states the terms of business conduct between employers (the team owners) and their employees (the players). The collective bargaining agreements vary for each sport, but the issues they cover usually include injury grievances, base salaries, medical rights, retirement, insurance and the duration of the collective bargaining agreement. The problem is, each side is trying to look out for what’s in their best interest and as a result, there has been no agreement.
So far, negotiations between the player’s union and the owners in the NFL have broken down. the owners feel that the current bargaining agreement isn’t working out due to an increase of their business costs as a result of increasing player costs as well as a shaky economy. Owners are claiming that they are making less money and players are asking them to prove it by opening up their books, which the owners are hesitant to do. In the current NFL collective bargaining agreement, 60 percent of gross revenue goes to the players and they are not willing to give that up unless the owners prove that they are not making a healthy profit.
On the other side, the negotiations over the NBA collective bargaining agreement have broken down for similar reasons. Owners are claiming that their projections show that the league will be losing about $350 million this year and as a result, they want to completely change the current player salary structure while the players want to keep it. In fact, NBA commissioner David Stern is saying that the players need to have their annual salary and benefits package cut by $800 million dollars, changing it from the current $2.1 billion to $1.3 billion.
In both situations, the owners want to give the players less money and the players don’t want that, which will inevitably result in a lockout. We shouldn’t get confused, though: a lockout is not a strike. A lockout occurs when the owners want something from the players and unless they get it, they will not allow the players to play, “locking them out” of the sport.
Each group is looking out for what’s in their best interest and as a result, the fans are going to suffer. America will be losing two of its top three popular sports at the same time. No football and no basketball means no Super Bowl, no NBA Finals, and no sports in the winter besides hockey and MLS soccer.
What makes these lockouts even more untimely is that both the NFL and the NBA are at the best they’ve been in years. The NBA landscape has changed for the better after the most exciting offseason in recent memory, including the creation of the superpower Miami Heat. On the other side, the NFL has the most parity it’s seen in a long time with six teams tied for first place and eight more teams only a game or less behind them in the standings.
It’ll be a sad day if the NBA and NFL both have lockouts, and based on recent developments, it seems to be the direction we’re headed in. So enjoy every touchdown, alley-oop and buzzer beater that you can. It might be the last you see for a long time.
Raahil Kajani is a sophomore in Branford College.