While this is a 49ers-specific website, there are bigger issues that will affect the entire NFL, and thus the 49ers as well. The labor situation is the big one. As each day passes, new stories come out that seem to reflect greater and greater sabre-rattling. Today, ESPN is reporting that approximately 20 current and former players, including our very own Takeo Spikes, showed up on Capitol Hill to lobby members of Congress.
While they are looking for general support, they have specifically brought up the antitrust exemption granted to the league. NFL has a limited antitrust exemption when it comes to their broadcasting contract. This exemption is what allows the NFL to negotiate a contract for the entire league. It is due in large part to the broadcasting contract that the teams have become so profitable.
The NFL Players Association has put out a study indicating that the average franchise value has risen from $288 million to $1.04 billion in 10 years. Whether you believe those specific numbers or not, we all can recognize that franchise values have definitely gone up. I'm not pointing to that as a reason to support one side or the other, but rather that it is a simple fact.
The new executive director of the NFLPA, DeMaurice Smith, has already begun the PR battle for the players, as he brought up the thousands of people employed as stadium workers:
"I'm not sure in an economic downturn whether a business that generated $8 billion in revenue last year should be contemplating" throwing those people out of work during a lockout, he said, adding that lawmakers should think about the consequences to their home cities.
Well played NFLPA, well played. The players met with California representative Barbara Lee, and were also planning on meeting with Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tenn., Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Wis. (chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee's antitrust subcommittee), and Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa. Specter is often involved in matters of the NFL and antitrust laws.
With a potential cap-less season approaching, things could probably be described as tense at this point in time. I'd like to think everything will be worked out, but it's too early to tell. In bringing in Smith as executive director, the NFLPA has gone outside of football and brought in a guy who might be able to shake things up. When baseball did that (Marvin Miller back in the day), it grew into one of the most powerful unions in the world. I'm not saying that will happen here, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out. I just hope they can avoid any work stoppages.