By Barry Janoff, Executive Editor
November 26, 2010: The escalating discord between the NFL and the NFL Players Assn. regarding the collective bargaining agreement situation, which could lead to a lockout/shutdown of the 2011 season, continues to make news, even on Thanksgiving Day and weekend.
The NFL’s collective bargaining agreement is due to expire in March, with ongoing but increasingly strained negotiations revolving around such issues as an expanded 18-game season, salary caps and revenue sharing.
In its latest volley, the NFLPA claims, "Team owners have made a series of moves designed to lock out the players and fans." Supporting that position is a new commercial from the NFLPA staring NFL Hall of Famers Tony Dorsett and Barry Sanders. The two former running backs not only shared their memories about playing on Thanksgiving Day, but imploring football fans to voice their opinions to "block the lockout."
The commercial is part of a broader "Block the Lockout" effort from the Washington, D.C.-based NFLPA that is urging fans to sign a petition directed toward Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL team owners to keep the NFL in play next season.
"When you talk about Thanksgiving, you're talking about football," says Dorsett, a member of the Dallas Cowboys from 1977-1987. "It was an honor for us to be a part of a franchise that was selected to play and entertain the country."
Dorsett then offers, "I have a lot of deep, found memories about fans. The fans are the ones who make 'superstars' superstars. If there's a lockout, nobody wins."
Sanders says, "A lockout would be devastating. We don't want to take the fans for granted. We want to keep them first. We hope that their voice is heard. And we hope that there is not a stoppage."
Dorsett adds, "Fans are what make this game. Let's do the right thing for the fans."
The spot then directs viewers to a micro-site at the NFLPA Web site, Nfllockout.com, to sign a petition directed at NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL team owners. The petition reads:
"We the fans of the NFL, demand that you NOT lock out players in 2011. The players want to play football and we passionately want to see America’s most popular sport.
"As fans and members of our local communities, a lockout would have a devastating impact on our local and regional economies. Stadium employees will be jobless, and sports bars, police officers, restaurants, hotels and various support staff who work for this game will also be affected. Simply put, these tough times will get even tougher for Americans.
"It is estimated that more than 150,000 jobs would be impacted by a lockout and cause more than $140 million in lost revenue in each NFL city. We implore you to do the right thing and guarantee that players, fans and everyone who enjoys the NFL will not have to endure a lockout in 2011."
A looping messing at the Web site also warns, "Happy Thanksgiving, fans! Have a wonderful day and enjoy the Thanksgiving games! We may not have this tradition in 2011."
"The best way to ensure uninterrupted NFL football in 2011 is for the union to stop asking everyone else to solve its problems and to sit down and engage in serious, constructive bargaining."
Earlier this week, the NFLPA sent out a letter from its president, Kevin Mawae, to politicians whose constituents were located within NFL markets. It read, in part: "During one of the worst economies since the Great Depression, NFL owners are preparing to cancel the 2011 season and, in the process, devastate [those] businesses and stadium workers who count on football Sundays to make ends meet. It is our hope that the owners will shelve this plan and negotiate in good faith to ensure that we are playing for the fans in 2011."
The NFL issued an official response to that letter, which it posted at its NFLlabor.com Web site. In part, the NFL's letter read: "The union’s request for state and local political leaders to intercede in the negotiations ignores and denigrates the serious and far more substantial problems that those leaders, and that state and local workers across the country face. We can resolve our own issues as we have done many times in the past but the NFLPA has to want to participate in resolving them."
The NFL's response went on to read, "Nobody — least of all NFL owners — wants to shut down our business. The best way to ensure uninterrupted NFL football in 2011 is for the union to stop asking everyone else to solve its problems and to sit down and engage in serious, constructive bargaining. If the union does so, we can and will reach an agreement.” (Full letter here.)