By Rick Kasprzak*
I’m a huge Packer fan and have been for life. More importantly, I love football. Any kind -- pros, college, high school, even Pop Warner. I’m such a big fan I tape all the bowl games so I have some football to watch in the off-season.
It’s looking like my football methadone might have to last a little longer than usual this year.
Among the Packer fans I routinely run into at work, the big question I was asked recently was "Think there’s going to be football?"
My answer was that I think there will be football. I believe owners are hurt more by the absence of ticket sales than players are without a salary. Obviously Tom Brady or Peyton Manning has more of a cushion than some guy who is a bench warmer. However, logic tells me that since most owners are billionaires, they have more to gain from games. Therefore, they also have more to lose. An organization such as Green Bay doesn’t figure into that, since they are owned by 100,000 different people who can’t make a profit. I’ll get into the reasons the Green Bay Packers are the greatest organization ever in another piece someday.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the issue, the owners want to increase the season from 16-18 games. In my mind, that equals a pay cut, since players would be playing two extra games a year but for the same money. The owners are also supposed to share TV revenue with the players. That equals about $9 billion a year. The players get 60 percent (but remember that is split between 1696 players, an average of $3,183,962 per player. The rest is for the owners, who each get $112,500,000. But the owners declared last season they wanted to skim the first billion off the top, before the split, since their operating expenses have increased. The players asked for proof -- open the books. The owners refused. In effect, they said, "Trust us; you have our word we need that money." Frankly, if someone asked me for a billion dollars I’d want to see proof they actually needed it and weren’t going to fritter it away. The players filed suit and the owners locked them out.
Owners planned for this eventuality by structuring a contract with the TV networks that guarantee them a payout this year even if no games are played. They were ready for playing hardball. The players have asked a judge to put that money in escrow because in effect it gave the owners a war chest to survive a war with the players this year, and some of that money would belong to the players if games were being played. There is nothing dirtier than someone using your own money to crush you.
I mentioned to a sales rep at work my belief the owners will wake up someday. He said he was thinking just the opposite -- that the players will cave because they will miss that million-dollar paycheck. Then he went into a spiel about how unfair it was to the owners the players can dictate their own pay, benefits, and games played a year and so on.
Why should we care? It’s an argument between millionaires and billionaires. I’m never in a lifetime going to earn what Aaron Rodgers gets for one season. For me, the answer is simple. What is happening in the NFL is a microcosm of the struggles of unions in this country to remain alive.
I pointed out to the sales rep that it is about getting fair market value for your work. Whether I think a player’s salary is obscene is irrelevant. It’s about getting paid as much for your work as the market can bear. And NFL fans are willing to pay, with tickets, jersey and other merchandise purchases and paying premium prices for goods advertised during games. The union is also very much about control over the conditions in which we are working.
I offered him this scenario. Say your boss comes to you and says you are still going to work 40 hours a week but only get paid for 32. His operating expenses have increased and he needs to bank those eight hours of pay. You, being reasonable, ask him for proof of these extra costs and he says, "No. My books are private. You have to take my word for it that there is no other way." At this point I lose my reasonability and I say no. In the case of the sales rep I used his commissions as the example that he was going to only be paid for commission on the first $40,000 he made in sales for every $50,000 he actually sold. His answer was "No way. I’d tell my boss to take a hike."
That’s what NFL players are telling their bosses, and they feel strong enough to do that because they are unionized. If unions are systematically eliminated across America I’m sure we are all going to be working 40 hours and paid for 32.
*Editor's Note: Guest writer Rick Kasprzak is a resident of Calumet. See also his June 2, 2011, article, "Opinion: The True Value of 'Hobby' Classes."