The National Football League has been forced to cancel its first league-sanctioned event due to the work stoppage, which has given us a loose barometer for how far in advance future events may be called off as the lockout lingers on.
The annual rookie symposium was supposed to take place in Canton, Ohio on June 26, but the league has nixed the popular gathering with 34 days to spare.
Teams and draft picks aren’t allowed to have contact with each other until the lockout ends and a new league year is launched. With the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals slated to hear the NFL’s appeal of Judge Susan Nelson’s preliminary injunction ruling on June 3, it’s extremely unlikely that the two sides agree to bargain in good faith prior to mid- or late-June.
The symposium is considered to be very important for rookies — it teaches them how to handle the money and fame that is about to instantly change their lives.
Obviously, there’s nothing either side can do about that while the lockout continues. The question is whether they’ll attempt to at least plan an abbreviated rookie conference once the labor dispute is over. It would be a shame if these players were never given the opportunity to absorb the advice and information their peers have had access to in previous years.
The next event potentially on the NFL’s chopping block: The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, which also takes place annually in poor Canton. This year’s matchup between the Bears and Rams is scheduled to take place on Aug. 7 at Fawcett Stadium.
While losing the game itself wouldn’t be a tragedy, it is important to consider that the nationally-televised event is the only chance most of America has to see the newest batch of Hall of Famers being honored.
On Friday, the lockout hit the 10-week mark. The Hall of Fame Game is supposed to be played 10 weeks from this Sunday. In other words: we’re as close to the official beginning of the NFL’s 2011 season (in one direction) as we are from the commencement of the work stoppage (in the other direction).
Considering that March 11 feels like just yesterday, that’s a scary thought.
Because that Bears-Rams game is so unique (and because the induction ceremony will take place on that weekend regardless), it likely isn’t something that can be postponed or rescheduled. If something doesn’t get done between the league and the trade organization formerly known as the NFLPA between now and early July, the game will be cancelled for the first time in 45 years.
And when we visit pages like this, it’ll be a constant reminder for fans that two unbelievably greedy groups robbed us in 2011, regardless of what happens in the summer and in the fall.