I moved to DC from Boston I went to open a checking account
at a local bank. I brought a cashier’s check from my bank
in Boston to deposit. I naturally assumed that with a cashier’s
check that I could immediately access my funds. The customer
service person disabused me of that. She informed me that
the bank would be holding onto the check for five days in
order for it to clear. I was perplexed and responded that
since this was a cashier’s check and there should be no
question as to its validity, why would they need to hold
onto it for five days. I will never forget her response:
“Because we can.”
In watching the struggle that has been unfolding between
the owners of the National Football League and the players
- represented by the NFL Players Association - I have found
myself remembering the words of the bank’s customer service
person. The dispute between the owners and the players
has a level of absurdity to it because the owners cannot
even state their case with a straight face. With an average
team worth $1 billion and $9 billion in revenue for the
NFL, how could the owners possibly argue that they needed
concessions from the players? Not only that, but how could
they think that a lockout would be justified?
The bottom line is that it is not justifiable but it is explainable.
It is simple: because they can.
What we are watching unfold in the dispute in the NFL is
not about money any more than the events unfolding in Wisconsin
concern money. It is about raw power, justified to the
public, of course, on the basis of alleged fiscal fairness
The NFL owners want give backs from the players and they
want an extension of the season to 18 games. While many
fans might want a little extra football, there is almost
no discussion—except from the Players Association—as to
the literal and figurative impact of the extension of the
season on the players themselves. As it is the physical
impact of football on the players is something that has
been underplayed in the mainstream media and only periodically
surfaces as a major concern. So, in effect, the owners
want the players to concede funds and shorten their lives.
But what they really want is to demolish the NFL Players
Association, thereby leaving them with unbridled power over
the sport. There really can be no other explanation for
their actions since this is not an industry that is either
in decline or suffering from some sort of revenue shortfall.
Therefore, the owners chose to go to war with the players.
Until the last two weeks the owners thought that they held
all of the cards until Judge David Doty issued a decision
eliminating the possibility of the owners accessing $4 billion
in television monies should there be a lockout. Let me
clarify this because it is almost unbelievable. Until Judge
Doty’s decision the owners expected that they could access
billions in television revenue even if there was no football
to broadcast! What a weapon to hold over the heads
of the players. With this weapon in hand the owners felt
no particular need to pay any serious attention to negotiations.
In the aftermath of Judge Doty’s decision they have changed
By the time that you read this piece there may be a settlement
or a lockout. What is critical to recognize, in either
case, is that the fight that the NFL Players Association
is undertaking is not a battle among the gods, but is actually
a variant on the fight that has been taking place in state
after state where the elite, and their political allies
largely in the Republican Party, are attempting to strip
working people of not only organization, but any power to
assert their interests and rights. While some NFL players
make millions for the brief duration of their careers, and
therefore live lives that are dramatically different from
you and eye, the owners make billions. And one of the things
about capitalism is that the elite are never satisfied with
what any average person would consider acceptable profits.
If the profits are not expanding, then the elite considers
it a loss. That is what we are witnessing unfolding on
this side of the field.
As crazy as it may first sound, the fight of the players
is a fight that we should not only concern ourselves with,
but a fight which we need to join. If they can destroy
the players and their union when the owners are rolling
in money, what stops owners in other industries from moving
against populations that they believe to be even more vulnerable?
you ready for some football?
BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a Senior Scholar with
the Institute for
Policy Studies, the immediate past president ofTransAfricaForum and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in
Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice
(University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized
labor in the USA. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.