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Freakonomics » Questions About the P…

This is Google's cache of http://www.freakonomicsmedia.com/2011/02/04/questions-about-the-pending-nfllockout-bring-them-and-other-football-questions-to-nfl-players-union-executive-george-atallah/. It is a snapshot of the page as it appeared on Mar 4, 2011 21:24:46 GMT. The current page could have changed in the meantime. Learn more Full version

Questions About the Pending NFL Lockout? Bring Them — and Other Football Questions — to NFL Players’ Union Executive George Atallah Post by: Stephen J. Dubner February 4, 2011 at 11:30 am DESCRIPTION George Atallah is the assistant executive director of external affairs for the N.F.L. Players Association, which means that he and his boss, DeMaurice Smith, are the top representatives for perhaps the most prominent labor union in history: NFL players. If you care even a little bit about the NFL — and this week, many people do — you know that there’s a potential lockout looming on March 4, when the current Collective Bargaining Agreement between the league and the players expires. There are many issues behind the standoff between league and union, most of them economic (revenue share, guaranteed payments, etc.) but also psychic — i.e., this standoff has more the feel of a classic labor war than the typical pro-sport standoff, in part because of the tone with which Smith and Atallah have made their case to the public. Here, for instance, is Atallah writing at ESPN.com: According to the NFL and team owners, however, the “economic model in the NFL doesn’t work.” What’s more, they have prepared for and are openly threatening a lockout if it’s not “fixed.” What is their proposal to fix it? They’ve asked the players for more than a $1 billion reduction in the players’ portion of revenues in the first year alone of a future CBA. By the way, in a league with no guaranteed contracts, revealed dangers of the game and injury concerns at their peak, they want players to play two extra regular-season games. webcache.googleusercontent.com/sear…

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The players maintain that one fundamental question needs to be answered in earnest if there is to be an agreement before a lockout: Why is the current deal so bad? If owners had decided to make this a direct business transaction between partners, the players are confident a deal would’ve been struck a long time ago. Business partners get together, sign confidentiality agreements, exchange financials and negotiate. Our repeated requests for detailed financial information that would help us answer the quintessential question have been denied. As a result, players and fans have to go by what we do know. I recently sent a letter to all sports editors to set the record straight on the economics and revenue breakdown between players and owners because the phrase most frequently seen is that “players get 60 percent of revenues.” This is not an accurate depiction. Players receive approximately 50 percent of all revenues in the NFL. Or, players receive approximately 60 percent of total revenue in the NFL after the owners take a number of expense credits that add up to more than $1 billion a year. So here’s your chance to ask questions directly to Atallah. Please leave them in the comments section below. He did a Q&A on this blog last year as well, but I’m guessing that with a potential lockout around the corner, your questions will be of a different intensity. As always, we’ll post his answers in short course. We are trying to line up someone prominent from the league side to take a Q&A next week, so we’ll post that as well if it works out. TAGS: football, Q&A, Sports, union

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COMMENTS: 32 1. VB in NV says: February 4, 2011 at 11:40 am Will the players ask for extended health benefits? http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2011/01/mcgrath-football.html Reply 2. Phil says: February 4, 2011 at 11:46 am webcache.googleusercontent.com/sear…

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It’s my understanding that the replacement players in ’87 worked out well for the owners because in a face-masked league, the fans didn’t care who’s playing as long as the games are played. With the explosion and popularity of today’s 24-hour sports news, twitter and fantasy football, more players have become more recognizable (though still a significantly smaller percentage than NBA and MLB). Nevertheless, do you think this gives players some leverage that was demonstrated to be non-existent after 1987? Reply 3. Schantz says: February 4, 2011 at 11:48 am There has been a lot of talk about a salary structuring for rookies. Why would the NFL or the NFLPA even hesitate on limiting the amount of money rookies can make? It seems beneficial to both sides (more money for proven players and no risk of getting stuck with a JaMarcus Russell). Am I missing a representative for future players? Reply 4. Mike says: February 4, 2011 at 11:52 am How about really answering my question from last time? I’m not aware of any great examples of sportsmanship. From last time: I remember numerous charitable efforts from pro sports leagues and player’s unions that are well publicized on TV. I can think of physical fitness, education (e.g. reading), and welfare (e.g. food donations) as areas where most of these efforts concentrate. And the United Way is in many of these areas. I would like to see more efforts go into promoting sportsmanship. Any ideas on what small steps could be taken? — Mike A. Across the board NFL players are a great example of sportsmanship. There is always more we can do and I will look into those organizations to promote it further. Reply 5. Andrew Ward says: February 4, 2011 at 11:56 am The owners seem to be fine with a lockout next season if they don’t get their conditions. If this is true, what leverage (if any) do the players have to force a collective bargaining agreement? What are the owner’s incentives? Reply 6. Michael Radosevich says: February 4, 2011 at 12:03 pm webcache.googleusercontent.com/sear…

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Have the players made plans to start “a league of their own”? No one pays $150 per game to see Jerry Joan or Danny Snide. No one watches TV to see those two men. The players hold the power. Why not combine with the cities to field teams, using city-owned vacant stadiums like RFK in Washington and the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville? Who owns the Rose Bowl? I’m sure you could pack 100,000 fans in there every week. Why not two teams or even four teams in LA the first year? For TV, use Univision or some other major network outside the current TV oligopoly. If the players haven’t made plans or are too weak to break free of the system of serfdom they currently have, it’s their own fault. This should be a golden opportunity for the players to control their fate. Reply 7. Aaron says: February 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm 1) Do you agree with the premise that the non-guaranteed contracts and hard salary cap strongly contribute to making the NFL the most competitively balanced professional sports league? 2) If so, what is your philosophy in representing the players while maintaining the parity that makes the NFL so popular? Would you focus more on signing bonuses and less on game checks or vice versa? Less guaranteed money to the top ten draft picks and more guaranteed money to veterans? What do you seek for players whose average career is three years? Two year guaranteed contracts and the remainder nonguaranteed? Reply 8. Zach says: February 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm Since the Packers are publicly owned, and their finances a matter of public record, has the NFLPA been able to make use of that data to counter any questionable accounting practices by the League/Ownership? Reply 9. Aaron says: February 4, 2011 at 12:18 pm What are your thoughts on non-guaranteed contracts? Three year average careers? Competitive balance in the league? Franchise tag? Large guaranteed contracts to the top ten draft picks? Reply 10. Brian Frederick says: February 4, 2011 at 12:27 pm How can fans get involved to ensure we save next season? Reply 11. bc says: February 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm webcache.googleusercontent.com/sear…

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It’s pretty clear that the owners are out of line. What can we do as fans to support the players? Reply 12. Lawrence says: February 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm If there is no season next year, will there still be a 2012 NFL draft? Now will the order be determined? Will it be the same as this years? Reply 13. M. Steve says: February 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm Given how vehement the players seem to be about no 18-game seasons, and how indifferent the fans are, do you think it’s possible that Goodell and the owners are playing it up in order to make it a “major concession” later down the line, so it appears they are operating in good faith? From what I’ve heard, preseason games are serious revenue generators for teams, because they get to control the local broadcast rights, force season-ticket holders to but tickets at face value, and get more in concessions. Combine this with all the talk of concussions, pre-concussive hits, “holes in the brain”, and the failure to take care of retirees, I can’t imagine the NFL actually thinks an 18-game season would be anything but a money loser and PR disaster. Reply 14. frankenduf says: February 4, 2011 at 1:16 pm one measure of the worsening stratification in our country is the growing disparity between ceo pay and average worker pay, which presently is @ 350-to-1 (in the 60s it was @ 40-to-1)- i would love to see an owner-to-average-NFL salary ratio to further unmask this myth about owner ‘fixing’- also, does your $1billion in ‘expense credits’ the owners take count all of the fan/taxpayer subsidies for stadiums that the owners also pocket? Reply 15. Randy says: February 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm Why doesn’t a lockout invalidate player contracts, since they aren’t getting paid? Will a significant number of players drafted late, say round 5 and later, and rookie free agents, prefer a modest salary from the UFL over the unknown nature of the NFL in 2011? Reply Newer Comments » Previous Post: Bribery + Vegetables = Success

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Bring Them and Other Football Questions to NFL Players’ Union Executive George Atallah  

3/6/2011 Freakonomics » Questions About the P… George Atallah is the assistant executive director of external affairs for the N.F.L. Players...

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