Though commissioner Roger Goodell just led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted in NFL players being showered with money and benefits, according to Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison, Goodell is “a crook” and “the devil.”
That’s from his latest TMQ column and, uh, what? The rest of the lead-in to the column is an argument that the real reason the players don’t like Goodell is that the players simply resent that he has the audacity to enforce rules on safety. But setting that issue aside, Easterbrook’s intimation that the player’s should feel indebted to the Commissioner for having “led a collective-bargaining negotiation that resulted” in their “being showered with money and benefits” is just silly. The media had a difficult time sorting through the many moving parts in the lockout, but this kind of White Hat/Black Hat thinking was extremely defeating. The lockout was very simple: The old deal split revenues 50/50. The owners cancelled that deal because they said their expenses had gone up, and proposed a new deal that, among other things, split revenues closer to 60/40 owners versus players. The players balked, counter-proposed, dissolved their union, and sued, all in support of trying to keep the status quo regarding revenues. Many other issues were discussed, but once it became clear that the owners could potentially face anti-trust damages (though the players’ injunction was defeated), the two sides settled on a revenue split of roughly 53/47 owners/players (there is some wiggle in these numbers, as there was in the old CBA). (The veteran players were also able to get comfortable with less overall revenue for players by lowering the amounts payable to rookies and thus grossing up some of that difference with respect to veterans.) There were other bells and whistles, but that’s basically the story: cold hard capitalism; rough and tumble dealmaking, with high stakes (lots of money to divvy up); and plenty of complexity that reduces, like all big deals, to the bottom line.
Indeed, Easterbrook should realize that, by signing the CBA, the players did something far more important and meaningful than talk a good game about Goodell being a good guy: By signing the CBA, they acceded power to him to enforce punishments against them. Under the CBA, the players agree to let the Commissioner impose punishments against them by applying rules created by the Commissioner, and if the player doesn’t like the punishment they may appeal the Commissioner’s punishment to the Commissioner, who can decide if the Commissioner acted fairly. So, you know, I think they have a vested interest in ensuring that the Commissioner carries out his job fairly, consistently, and proportionately.