It’s unanimous. The NFL’s 32 owners hate the labor deal that they agreed to in 2006. They think it’s lopsided and unfair and claim it makes it difficult for them to maintain financial growth.
But people are struggling to feel sympathy for the league and its owners, mainly because they’re billionaires. And people who aren’t billionaires don’t usually like billionaires. But also because 30 of the league’s 32 owners signed off on the current deal in ’06.
The two nay votes came from Cincinnati’s Mike Brown and Buffalo’s Ralph Wilson, which wasn’t overly surprising. Both are considered to be fairly stubborn and neither are known for spending recklessly. Brown and Wilson thought that surrendering 60 percent of total revenue to the players was unreasonable.
It looks as though they were right. Two years later, the owners voted unanimously to opt out of the deal early.
So what happened in 2006? As Gary Myers of the NY Daily News puts it: “Looking for peace at any price, the owners caved in.”
The owners — all but two of ‘em — pulled a Lloyd Braun: Serenity now — insanity later.
Myers spoke with Wilson recently about his decision to vote against the ’06 proposal, and in the process dug up an interesting quote from Wilson with five years of hindsight to glorify the context:
“I’m upset about the whole deal and the way it was presented,” Wilson said five years ago. “And 59.5% is far too much money for the whole league, not just Buffalo.”
Whatever his reason, the fact remains that Wilson voted no when just about everyone else voted yes. If they had listened to him, this might have been settled a long time ago.
“I came into this game 50 years ago because I enjoyed the game of pro football. Not to make money,” Wilson said. “In those days, everybody was hoping to break even. We lost money for a number of years. I am really not into the game to make money, but I would like to break even or make a little.”
I’ve been critical of the way in which Wilson operates his football team, and I don’t think the 92-year-old should involve himself in personnel matters at this point. That said, it’s a shame that Wilson isn’t present as the league and players fight over where to move the revenue-sharing dial in the next collective bargaining agreement.
Wilson is a pioneer who won’t let the status quo influence him and won’t allow himself to become wrapped up in the drama that has ensnared a slew of more involved owners (I’m looking at you, Jerry Richardson).
In a situation like this, we could all actually use a little more Ralph Wilson.