The Arrogance of Ownership: The NFL Lockout Goes Into Overtime

On Thursday, it appeared all was over but the kegger. NFL owners, after creating an airport traffic jam of limousines in Atlanta (seriously), voted 31-0 to, as early reports said, "end the NFL Lockout." They approved a 10-year "global agreement" which would see the game into a glorious new, multi-billion dollar future. We were told that everyone except for Al Davis of the Raiders was happy, which in turn made all the other owners particularly happy. They even gave a standing ovation to their meat-puppet, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The sports media exhaled. Fans rejoiced. Belts were loosened, elastic pants were taken out of storage. Owners crowed that the NFL season, including the $800 million pre-season, looked glitteringly intact.

There was only one problem. The owners had not voted to accept a negotiated, collectively bargained agreement. They were doing little more than voting to approve their own deal. Neither the NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, nor NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, nor any of the player reps had even seen the agreement the owners voted upon. It reportedly includes a series of provisions that hadn’t been discussed or bargained. It was a power play aimed at using the deadline for a settlement to get their wish-list on the player’s backs. Eric Cantor would have been proud.

Mike Silver of yahoo sports wrote that the owners were doing little more than "....daring the players to swallow terms that have not yet been negotiated." Washington’s player rep Vonnie Holiday tweeted, "Look guys I have no reason to lie! The truth of the matter is we got tricked duped, led astray, hoodwinked, bamboozled!"

Meanwhile, the official sports media turned up the heat, clamoring for the NFLPA to just vote on what the owners approved and get back to work. Sports Illustrated’s Don Banks said that the owners should do their own “Let Us Play” commercial (thankfully Banks doesn’t work in advertising, since, owners don’t actually…. You know…. Play.)  Green Bay Packers player rep and Super Bowl hero Aaron Rodgers tweeted, "Media spin on owners position in this lockout is ridiculous. Believe my colleagues tweets tonight about the events of the last 24 hours."

Despite the awesome weight of ownership, media, and personal financial pressure, the players are holding firm to actually reading and discussing this mammoth 10-year labor agreement before signing off and good for them. I fully expect the lockout to end shortly. There is too much money at stake, too much expectation for football to go forward as planned. But after a 132 day lockout, the players have every right to actually understand in full what it is they're voting upon. The owners would be lucky if the NFLPA doesn’t look at the number of publicly funded stadiums, look at the star-power of their own players and say to the owners, “Why do we need you again?”

This is bigger than the NFL. This is about the arrogance of Capital in a period of austerity. The actions of the owners are little different from the arrogance of the Republican leaders of congress, Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio, Jerry Brown of California, Andrew Cuomo of New York and all who believe that it's belt-tightening time for everyone but the fat-cats and to hell with democracy, due process, or any semblance of thought for the greater good. This is about those at the top of society who want "socialism" for the rich and an apocalyptic Ayn Randian nightmare for the rest of us. As Troy Polamalu, the All-Pro safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers said,

“I think what the players are fighting for is something bigger. A lot of people think it’s millionaires versus billionaires and that’s the huge argument. The fact is its people fighting against big business. The big business argument is ‘I got the money and I got the power therefore I can tell you what to do.’ That’s life everywhere. I think this is a time when the football players are standing up and saying, ‘No, no, no, the people have the power.”

I wish Barack Obama, in his own set of negotiations, had half of their backbone of the NFLPA. We should stand with their basic right to not have their future force-fed to them like animals, but to be treated like men.

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Player's Media

Why don't the NFL/NBA/MLB players either together or individually fund a new sports media? That way they can promote the positive aspects of themselves and it would not be slanted like it is with the main stream sports media which heavily favors the owner's point of view? It would be very easy and cheap to set something like that up initially over the internet. I think it would have a chance of becoming wildly popular and if not at least beneficial to the players to at least underwrite.


I agree with John. That would be yet another easy way to show the fans the players side of the fence and primote our reality instead of the misinterpreted life that most fans think is universal for all players. When it's infect a small portion of em. But that would require a sense of responsibility to one another that few of the athletes feel as well. It's sad that many ideas like the one John pointed out get overlooked because of the "me" mentality as opposed to the "we". Where are the Ali's and the Len Bias's when you need em!

Both right

It would be a good idea, and modern athletes are definitely lacking on the Bias/Ali front. Too bad . . .

One for the money,two for the show...

DZ's point about the owners voting on their own plan is well taken. When Goodell is making his TV pronouncement where was D.Smith? That being said,however, this situation can be remedied by the players(not only their leadership) voting down this agreement. It would be a true democracy staking its claim. If the players do vote for the agreement(I'd love to see the % of yeas or nays) then this is not about the arrogance of capital but rather a display of it. Unions(or associations) should always defers to members for their guidance everything else is just window dressing.

I live in a backwater part of the world . . .

. . .where the only sports news available is either ESPN on TV or Fox Sports on radio--neither very well-known for truth-seeking. Anyway, it was only yesterday that I heard from the players' side. What a flim-flam job by the owners and their lap dogs on radio and television! Thanks for the story, Dave.

Coming soon: The Longest Yard, Too

The owners seem to think they can take a few pages out of the Republican playbook and come out on top. Do they really think NFL players can be replaced by scabs or prison laborers, like so many unionized custodians in Wisconsin? (no disrespect to Cheesehead custodians!)

Troy Polamalu, who has used the lock-out-imposed time off to complete his degree in history at USC, knows better. So does Cal-educated Aaron Rodgers, as well as the rest of the NFLPA. These guys have to be the best, most physically gifted, and (with a few exceptions) the brightest, in order to even make it to the NFL. And most have already put in a few years of indentured servitude in the NCAA.

These guys know what it means to put one's body on the line in pursuit of their goals. With virtually every career finished by injuries (averaging just 3 years of pulling an NFL paycheck), who among them will mind having a year off to rest their battered bodies, and pursue some balance in their personal lives? NFL players are essential ingredient any time people stand up to big business.

My money is on the players, who have what it takes to prevail, while owners seem deluded by their own greed. Hopefully fans will be inspired to take that page out of the NFLPA playbook, and start taking back their own rights as people/workers/citizens.

Players Signed Deal

Is it just me or does that not render Dave's position moot?

Yep, mooted, if his rant was ever relevant

I loved the '70s-era Marxist capitalized "Capital" like it was a hairy beast or something

Moot, shmoot!

You mean, DZ's position, "I fully expect the lockout to end shortly."??

Or his paraphrasing of (hairy beast and history major) Troy Polamalu, "..what the players are fighting for is something bigger...The fact is, it's people fighting against big business."???

You got a Point

I forgot he mentioned that.

First six paragraphs gave me a strong impression the players were going to vote against the deal. Sounded like the owners were shoving it down the players throat.

@Tornado. I like D.Z. I agree with him on a plethora of issues. As I explained above, I didn't expect the players to sign. I'm looking forward to learning what's in the new C.B. And I'll be tuning in to D.Z "rant" for that.

suit by former NFL players

I heard your excellent interview on Democracy Now!, and wanted to offer one small correction: The suit brought by the former players is NOT a class action suit. It's really 75 separate suits brought under one complaint, only because the allegations v. the defendants are the same for all. I just wrote about the suits for Slate:,

Welfare is not just about starving children, but Billionaires have needs too.,

Welfare is not just about starving children, but Billionaires have needs too.

"timely' rant ZARIN...

lockout is over!

and james f. you are an idiot

why would athletes want to emulate len bias???

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to
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