The Collective Bargaining Agreement expires as the clock strikes midnight, turning Thursday into Friday. If the NFL and the NFL Players Association don't come to an agreement before that happens, the owners could lock the players out on Friday. If you're thinking that won't happen because both sides will scramble to stop that from happening in zero hour, think again. According to George Cohen, the director of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, "Very Strong Differences" exist on some of the "All-Important Core Issues."
The players are beginning to prepare for the lockout now. George Wilson, the Buffalo Bills safety, who isn't involved in negotiations in any way but is the team's NFLPA representative, has been telling his teammates to get ready.
"Everything I'm telling my guys is: Prepare this Friday for the start of a lockout," Wilson said. "I certainly don't believe a deal will be reached by Thursday midnight. That's what I feel in my heart. I have not received any indication (from the union) that we're close to a deal."
All owners of the 32 teams are set to meet on Thursday in Virginia to discuss negotiations and figure out their next step. If they decide to lock the players out, the NFL could be at risk of losing a significant amount of money. And by significant, I mean more money than you and I will ever see.
The league estimates there would be a cut in gross revenues of $350 million if there's no new CBA by August, before the preseason starts, and a loss of revenues totaling $1 billion if no new contract is in place until September. And if regular-season games are lost in 2011, the NFL figures that revenue losses would amount to about $400 million per week.
Still, regardless of the money lost on either side, the people who lose the most in this situation aren't the players or the owners. They are without a doubt the fans. Remember when the players held one finger up to signify unity after the National Anthem was played in the opening game of the 2010 season? They did that as a gesture to everybody, especially the owners, that the players were united and would not back down.
We, the fans, cannot hold one finger up to signify unity when the first-shift whistle blows, when we go to the jobs we don't necessarily care for all the time (because we're not playing a game for money or owning a team for money) while we think about the money that we don't have. So, while everyday, hard-working American football fans struggle under the weight of too many bills and the current state of the economy, the NFL and the NFLPA will continue to bicker back and forth about how to split up billions of dollars.
There's just something about this that doesn't seem right and I think that regardless of how long it takes to resolve the situation, if the NFL enters into a lockout, they'll permanently change the way that we, the people who pay their bills, look at them.
Here's to unity.