Friday, September 21, 2018

NFL Owners and Healthcare

The Dallas Cowboys just were valued at $5 billion.

About 20 years ago Jeffrey Lurie bought the Philadelphia Eagles for $185 million, and the team is worth billions today.

The owners rely upon a flawed collective bargain process to avoid paying long-term healthcare for those whose labors create the value in the franchise.  The process has an inherent flaw because careers are so short; players cannot afford to sit out a season in exchange for long-term benefits for past and present players.  The best players would give up too much money in the prime of their careers to do so and historically have not been willing to hold out for a very long period of time.  The owners know that, so they wait out the players.  And then the owners anesthetize themselves that it is okay not to provide these benefits because they negotiated in good faith and the players did not insist upon them. 

A friend once said, "business is business, don't judge," and I think that is just flat out wrong, especially when, in his case, he is an unapologetic liberal.  He did so in the context of defending his best friend from high school, who is wont to question, challenge and attack competitors despite the fact that his own organization has many shortcomings.  A mentor who negotiated big transactions for a living once offered, "It's always best in a deal to live a little extra on the table.  It's a partnership, and you'll get more out of it if you don't negotiate down to the last penny.  Because if you do, and you get too good of a deal, the other side will figure it out and things could go badly."  That logic is better.

The owners don't win by being right all the time.  Their logic works as far as it goes, but they should take my mentors' advice and leave a little more on the table.  Be magnanimous, offer the long-term healthcare.  Relations with the players' union are awful for many reasons, and I think part of the reason is the anxiety that the players have for what might happen to them after they are done playing.  The owners, who are very wealthy, should do the right thing.  Imagine what the gesture will do for the long-term relationship of the players and owners and correspondingly the fans and the league.  And, then, go one step further, invest heavily in research to help make the game safer.

It's hard to pinpoint why ratings are down.  The games have a lot of interruptions.  The overblown flag controversy contributes.  As, perhaps, does NFL Red Zone, which cannibalizes game viewership because why watch a game with all of its fits, starts and stops when you can just watch the highlights.  Fewer kids are playing the sport; more are playing the soccer video game and watching international soccer.  I have not studied the issue the way a marketing company or academic would, but the NFL has some serious issues.

No fun.  Cold, Heartless.  Greedy owners.  Insensitive toward, and uncaring of, those who get maimed for life.  Arrogant.  Self-congratulatory. 

Take care of the guys who make your franchises worth what they are, owners.  Suppose those players were your family, your kids.

What would you say then?

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