Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Seattle Screwjob pt. 2- the NFL and oligarch mentality

For the second part of my reaction on the nightmare that is the replacement officials in the NFL, I want to frame it as symptomatic of a bigger problem in America, where the race to the bottom lowers quality and results for all of us. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell used language that sounded a whole lot like Scott Walker and other union-busters when he discussed the league's ref lockout earlier this month.
....[Goodell] didn't argue that the league's retirement contributions to referees had grown too onerous. Instead, he simply noted the fact that American workers in general are losing their defined benefit pensions. Even Roger Goodell, Goodell noted, doesn’t enjoy such a pension plan.

"From the owners' standpoint, right now they're funding a pension program that is a defined benefit program," said Goodell, who was in Washington on Wednesday attending a luncheon hosted by Politico's Playbook. "About ten percent of the country has that. Yours truly doesn't have that. It's something that doesn’t really exist anymore and that I think is going away steadily."

"What we agreed to do and offer as ownership," he added, "is that they would have a defined contribution plan, in the form of 401(k), so they'll still have a pension plan but the risk, like [for] most of us, would be on individuals."

Mike Arnold, the lawyer leading negotiations for the union, insists the referees were "all shocked" by the pension proposal, given the league's sound financial footing. He said the union simply wanted the same pay raises and benefit packages laid out in its 2006 contract. According to Green, referees earn between $4,000 and $8,000 per game, depending on experience.
By comparison, Goodell is slated to make up to $20 million a year as Commissioner, making the need for a defined benefit a little less important to him than to the average NFL ref. And it's not like NFL teams are struggling financially, as the average NFL team is worth more than $1 billion and the league is slated to get more than $6 billion in TV revenue ALONE by 2014 - or around $200 million a team. There's plenty of money available to pay the refs, but the owners feel they have to have it all, regardless of how much it damages the game.

And when you realize who owns NFL teams, it makes more sense, because a 2011 study showed the league is filled with billionaire white male owners who give big money to politicians, mostly Republicans.
In all, NFL players, owners and executives, along with their spouses, contributed a total of at least $1.4 million to federal candidates and political committees since January 2009, according to the Center's research, with about two-thirds of that money aiding Republicans.

That sum includes only money to candidates and party-affiliated political committees. It does not include money to nonpartisan political action committees (i.e. Koch-type front groups).

According to the Center's analysis, eight of the 10 biggest NFL-related political donors, all owners, also make the list of the 10 biggest contributors to Republicans.

Some of these men have given large amounts to each party, such as Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Indianapolis Colts owner James Irsay and the San Diego Chargers' owner Alex Spanos.

But most lean heavily Republican with their money like McNair, Johnson, and the Arizona Cardinals' Bidwell family.

Only New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who's overseen three Super Bowl-winning teams, has heavily favored Democrats and given enough to make the top 10 contributors list. Of the $33,600 he has contributed since 2009, only $4,800 went to Republicans.
It's also worth mentioning that Commissioner Goodell's father was a Republican member of Congress, albeit in the old-school Northeast Liberal Republican type that now is a pro- Wall Street Democrat. But when you realize where these oligarchs come form and who they support, any surprise they'd buy into the GOP "divide and conquer" theory of "You should be screwed out of your pension because other people have been screwed out of their pensions."? I'm sure not. And it's hardly a stunner that they'd feel there is no such thing as too much profit being concentrated to the top (they also locked the players out of trainng camp last year, if you recall).

But now the greed of NFL owners and puppet Roger Goodell has bitten them in the ass, and even though Steve Young has his doubts that they'll feel the bite at the box office and the TV ratings, I think even the average NFL owner can see there's trouble here. They need to come to an agreement, give the refs almost everything that they want to end this ridiculousness (and the refs even were reportedly willing to take a two-tier system with a 401 (k) for new hires a couple of weeks ago).

Because if these guys have the hubris to believe the NFL will always be on top, they should remember that boxing was well ahead of sports like basketball, hockey and (yes) football until at least the late 1950s in America. And now boxing is considered a no-integrity joke that very few casual sports fans pay attention to in any kind of serious way. Between the scab refs and the more than 3,400 former players suing the NFL in relation to concussion issues and the league's lack of willingness to deal with them, I'd say the boxing paralells are getting far too close for the NFL. The league's owners need to drop the greed and get this great game's decency and integrity back NOW.

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