Keeping Score

Sports Labor Strife: Progress in NFL, Pain in NBA

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Bebeto Matthews / AP

Los Angeles Lakers basketball player and NBA players' union president Derek Fisher holds a press briefing following a meeting with team owners on Tuesday, June 21, 2011 in New York.

The NFL’s players and owners aren’t sitting around the campfire, roasting marshmallows, doing the Hokey Pokey. But the tone among the lockout combatants, who have reached the hundredth day of their irritating work stoppage, has drastically shifted this week. It feels like they’re going to get a deal done.

According to, NFL owners have offered a plan that would give the players 48% of all revenues, which were around $9 billion last season. Most recently, the players received some 60% of revenues, but not before the owners took a $1 billion cut off the top. So the players actually wound up with around 50% of all revenues — not far from the 48% share currently being proposed.

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Plus, if the players can actually go out and, you know, play football, the revenue pie will continue to expand, and everyone will get richer. The NFL is also reportedly willing to mandate that teams spend close to 100% of the salary cap — the previous floor was less than 90% of the cap. Point, union. The 18-game schedule proposal, according to reports, will remain as a negotiable item, but wouldn’t be mandated in the new agreement. Point, fans: the 16-game schedule is just fine.

The agreement will also include some sort of pay scale for rookies, which help control costs for unproven players. Point, owners.

There’s even talk of getting this thing wrapped up by July 4, or at least having football open for business by mid-July. “Everyone is optimistic,” one player tells NewsFeed. “Most people are counting on being in training camp.”

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Woo hoo! If the players and owners do reach an agreement over the next few weeks, ensuring that no regular season games will be missed, here’s one prediction: all will be forgiven and forgotten. The league and its players have forced fans to digest painstaking details about labor laws and decertification and stays and court appeals and the rest. That was not fun. But once players get their fannies to camp, we’ll erase all frustration from our brains.

Or at least transfer it to the NBA. While things seem chipper in the NFL, the NBA’s labor scene is dour. Derek Fisher, president of the NBA’s players union, has said that the latest proposal from the owners “speaks to [their] arrogance.”

According to the Associated Press, “the league proposed what it called a “flex” salary cap, in which teams would be targeted to spend $62 million but could exceed that through the use of various exceptions. But there’s an eventual ceiling at an unspecified amount, so players still consider it a hard cap.”  The players say they are willing to give back $500 million in salary over five years, an offer which NBA commissioner David Stern labeled “modest.”

According to, “[Union head Bill Hunter] said the NBA’s proposal would cost the players $7 billion in compensation over the 10-years of the deal and that it would take until the 10th year for the players to reach the $2.17 billion in salary and benefits they earned in 2010-11.”

The NBA’s collective bargaining agreement ends on June 30th, and a lockout seems inevitable. Well, at least we’ll have football. Right?

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