DeMaurice Smith and the NFL Players' Association believe there is one group of people that have the most at stake if the owners do in fact lock the players out in March — the fans. In his second consecutive Super Bowl week press conference, the NFLPA executive director called a potential lockout "irresponsible" and admitted there is a possibility fans could be alienated by such a move.
DeMaurice Smith and the NFL Players' Association believe there is one group of people that have the most at stake if the owners do in fact lock the players out in March — the fans.
In his second consecutive Super Bowl week press conference, the NFLPA executive director called a potential lockout "irresponsible" and admitted there is a possibility fans could be alienated by such a move.
"Our fans are the engine that drives, not only the economic side of football, but all the players who play this game and have played this game in the past," Smith said. "We need to get back to our love of the game. The love of the game, that's it."
After showing the union's "Let Us Play" commercial, Smith, NFLPA President Kevin Mawae, and some current and former players spoke on the possibility of a lockout and how it will impact the future of the league.
The deadline to reach a new collective bargaining agreement is March 4, and Smith reiterated his mantra of "prepare for the worst even while you're hoping for the best."
"The players are committed to prevent (a lockout) from happening," said Smith. "We intend to never give up talking about what's fair for our players, what's fair for the families, and what's fair for our former players.
"Our sincere hope is that we get a deal done quickly. They've made it absolutely clear that it's my job, and that's what I intend to do."
Mawae, a retired eight-time Pro Bowl center with the Seahawks, Jets, and Titans, is now the head of the players representatives and says the players are concerned a lockout could hurt its enormous fan base.
"We understand this business is based on the fans' interest," Mawae said. "Without the players there is no game and the fans are the ones that drive this game."
Both Smith and Mawae emphasized the key to getting a deal done is "financial transparency."
According to the NFLPA executive director, the players receive 50 percent of all league revenue, minus the cost credits, which reached $1 billion last year, according to Smith.
"Since 2006, that (50 percent) share has decreased," said Smith. "All we have ever wanted, and I know that Gene (Upshaw) believed this as well, is a deal that's fair. I don't know how you get there without the kind of financial transparency that assure your interests are shared fairly."
Smith touched on such topics as a rookie wage scale, an 18-game season, and even the possibility of making franchise tags meaningless as issues holding up a new agreement.
"There's fundamental disagreement," Smith said. "Our problem and our fundamental disagreement is happening at the heigh of football's viability."
Arizona Cardinals kicker Jay Feely said players are willing to make concessions to get a deal done and make sure no games are lost to a work stoppage.
"We know you might have to make a sacrifice for the greater good and I think the players are committed to that," Feely said.
Typically, Mawae said he would be given an opportunity to make an official "president's statement" to give a "state of the players' union," but did not need any notes this time.
"We've been very clear about our message," Mawae said. "Our fans don't want to hear us whine about health care coverage and what's going to happen next year. They just want us to play football.
"You can strip away the business and you could put 22 guys and put them in the middle of nowhere in Texas and we'd still go play the game because we love the game. It's unfortunate we have a $9 billion business and owners who don't understand that and it's just about the business for them. (Fans) don't come to watch a shield, they don't come to watch a logo, they come to watch the stars. All we ask for is financial transparency, justification, and let us play."
Paul Jannace writes for the Wellsville (N.Y.) Daily Reporter.