If you’ve been living under a rock for the past few months, it’s my unfortunate honor to inform you that both the NFL and NBA are locked out. Now, as a sports fan, I have been trying to understand the reasons behind these disagreements and I have been met either with pages upon pages of legal jargon or long-winded explanations that only serve to further confuse me. I am going to try and explain, in as few words as possible, the general idea of what is going on. We won’t cover everything, but the major issues will be touched on so next time you’re watching ESPN in between sets you’ll understand what’s up.
There is one thing I want to point out, however. This is a case of millionaires arguing with billionaires over money that most of us will never come close to making. The people that are really going to lose here are you and I, the fans. So before we get started, I would like to introduce you to a quote that really struck a chord with me.
“Sure we make a lot of money, but we spend a lot, too” — Patrick Ewing, 1999
Lets get to it!
NBA: Owners want shorter, non-guaranteed contracts. Players want to keep the contracts the way they are. Owners argue that it’s not fair to owners to pay top dollar to a player who isn’t worth the money. Players argue that owners don’t have to offer longer contracts and that the market determines contract length.
NFL: Player contracts are not guaranteed, and both sides are fine with this. The issue here is rookie contracts. As of now, a first-round draft pick can hold out as long as he wants for max money. This means that a rookie who has never played a game can win a lucrative contract without performing (see: JaMarcus Russell). Both sides agree that this will change, however, where the money saved is put is a sticking point.
Advantage: NBA players. They are still going to retain guaranteed contracts, meaning they are always going to get paid. NFL players typically have shorter careers as well, so they need to get the money and get it fast.
Issue: Salary Cap
NBA: The NBA has a “soft cap,” meaning the amount a team can spend on player salaries can be exceed for certain reasons. Players like this model-they can get more money. Owners are opposed and want to change the cap model. A “hard cap” is out of the question, but the cap system will most likely be a hybrid of a soft/hard cap.
NFL: The NFL has, and mostly likely will continue to have, a hard cap. Penalties for exceeding the cap can be severe, including fines of up to $5 million and voiding of contracts. NFL players, as mentioned before, do not have guaranteed contracts, meaning they can be cut from their team at any time without getting paid.
Advantage: NBA Players/NFL owners. NBA players are still guaranteed money, and are still going to get to exceed the salary cap. NFL owners don’t have to guarantee money, and will not exceed the salary cap.
Issue: Money (The Big One)
NBA: Players are guaranteed 57% of all basketball related income, which is pretty much anything and everything related to basketball. The owners want to lower this to more of a 50-50 split. The players want to keep things as they are now. In addition to that, players want to increase revenue sharing among teams, which means a team making more money will have to give some of its profits up to be redistributed amongst the league. Some of the more profitable teams in larger markets are against this.
NFL: The NFL owners have been saying that the league as a whole is not making as much money as before—because of this they are looking to cut salaries by as much as 18%. NFL players have called for the teams to open their books, but the owners have been strongly against this. This lack of communication has been a major sticking point.
So there you have it. The major issues plaguing your favorite leagues. Next time your buddies get into a heated debate over which side is right and which is wrong, at least you will be able to understand what’s going on. We hope.