It seems like it’s taking a little while for the news to settle in, but football is back. After a summer-long lockout the NFL Players Association and owners have agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement. So NFL teams are scrambling to pick up free agents and set their rosters for a season that begins in about 6 weeks.
For those those who aren’t NFL fans, you may ask: Why does any of this matter to me? The end of the NFL lockout has major implications for you, even if you never found sports important before:
Labor scores a victory
Governors in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana have made it their personal and policy business to destroy what’s left of labor unions in the United States.Republican governors have taken unions in America to the brink, and pushed many out of business. So it’s pretty amazing that one of the lone union victories in the last five years came from the hard work and sweat equity of a bunch of professional athletes.
NFL players banded together to protect their collective bargaining rights, improve workplace conditions and healthcare. They also lent support to other national unions. Not bad for a bunch of millionaires fighting billionaires.
The economy scores a victory
The NFL is a crucial part of the American economy and anyone out there with their own business will tell you that the potential loss in revenues from the lockout, let alone employment would have been huge. In the short term most people only think that a couple thousand football players will be out of work, but not so. Stadium employees, vendors and ticket staffers all would have been out of jobs had this labor impasse not been fixed.
For many major cities in this recession — Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New Orleans — Sunday football provides a much needed boost to downtown revenue. If you go national, the impact is even greater since major car manufacturers like Chrysler, Ford and GM desperately need the NFL audience in order to sell cars through the cold winter months.
The “other lockout” can see a victory
Many African-Americans are two-sport fans: football and basketball. Baseball has increasingly become the sport of older, mostly white and educated fans. Hockey, despite expanding over the last decade, still remains a sport loved by working class folks in the Northeast and Canada.
However, football and basketball are linked as the two sports with some of the most diverse fanbases, and thus they often mirror each other when it comes to innovation and marketing. When the NFL lockout started it didn’t look good — all 32 owners had been plotting for two years for this chance to break the player’s association.
Surprisingly, under the leadership of super-lawyer DeMaurice Smith, the NFL players remained united, kept their cool, and won the PR battle with fans, sealing a new deal before the season started. The NBA, which is facing its own lockout, could learn something from the NFL: Owners want more money, but they recognize that losing a season to prove a point isn’t going to work.
Seeing this conflict end so well will likely inspire the NBA to do the same.
Communities get a victory
Wondering what your son or daughter will be able to do after school or on the weekends for fun? One of the most overlooked benefits to the lockout ending is the incredible impact that most professional athletes have on their local communities.
From fundraisers to running free sports camps for kids — to even just lending their name and celebrity to local causes — the prominence of NFL athletes is crucial to the success of thousands of community programs across the United States.
The fans get a victory
Finally let’s be honest: the end of the NFL lockout is one of the first times in years that fans and consumers actually won something. Every year it seems like consumers are paying more for less product: Every new summer movie is in 3D so you have to shell out more money; Netflix just jumped up their fees; parking and concessions at games continue to rise no matter how bad your team is; and let’s not even talk about cable and satellite TV rates. So thank God for the return of football. This is one time that the regular guy, the fan and even the NFL employee finally won out.