- The Washington Times - Monday, July 25, 2011

NEW YORK | NFL owners and players were all smiles after agreeing on a new labor deal. And why not, as both sides were feeling like winners.

It took a 4 1/2-month lockout to do it, but players came away with better salaries and benefits and safer working conditions. Owners, meanwhile, gain a higher percentage of the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues that figures to rise significantly.

“The whole deal for everybody is truly an upgrade,” Chicago Bears kicker and player representative Robbie Gould said Monday. “If you look at the whole concept of the deal - for the owners, obviously, they wanted a percentage back. We gave them a percentage back. For the players, workers compensation, the revenue sharing.

“I think at the end of the day, the deal is fair for everyone.”

The biggest issue involved splitting revenue. In the new 10-year deal, the split is about 53 percent to owners and 47 percent to players. The old collective bargaining agreement was close to a 50-50 arrangement.

“This new agreement is fair for both sides. Neither side got everything they wanted,” San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos said. “It will give us labor peace for 10 years and helps secure the long-term future of the game. It will allow pro football to be even better, safer and more competitive, and to grow and prosper into the future.”

On the plus side for the players, there’s:

c an increase in salaries and benefits, with the salary cap at $120 million, plus $22 million in benefits, for 2011. Owners must spend 99 percent of the salary cap in 2011-12 in cash;

c minimum salary increases of $50,000 that will increase annually;

c new work rules and shortened offseason workouts, which are expected to result in fewer injuries and perhaps longer careers;

c better health benefits, including more than $1 billion for post-career injuries.

On the owners’ side, there’s:

c more money to invest as gross revenues rise;

c labor peace for 10 years that makes it easier to work out long-term business deals;

c the ability to assist in the development of new stadiums because certain revenue was not included in total football revenues;

c paying less money to untested rookies, specifically high-first-round draft picks, although that money will be redirected to veterans.

Each side lost a little, too. The owners did not give the players an opt-out clause NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith sought, and the players retained a 16-game regular season that Commissioner Roger Goodell wanted increased to 18 games.

“We didn’t get everything that either side wanted … but we did arrive at a deal that we think is fair and balanced,” Smith said.

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