Who’s the “Face” of the NFL Lockout?

April 06, 2011 | Thyrl Nelson

Remember when Jerry Jones was a new and maverick owner, taken to task by the NFL for his creative approach to maximizing team revenues outside of the league’s oppressive and collective marketing practices? In a “Rip Van Winkle” kind of way it feels like I’ve suddenly woke up to find Jones’ maverick model now par for the NFL course, but also to find Jones himself looked to as part of the league’s “old guard”. As the league’s owners have elected to opt out of the previous collective bargaining agreement citing increased expenses associated with stadiums etc. it’s tough not to turn a suspicious eye toward Jones and the billion dollar monument to his ego recently constructed in Dallas.

Indeed, Jones along with Bob Kraft in New England and the joint venture between the Jets and Giants in New York have wasted no opportunity to remind us of the great expenses incurred by each of those teams in building their new stadiums. Now it seems that they are leading the charge to recoup some of the money they so generously fronted, and are attempting to do it at the players’ expense. This however seems to be an argument almost exclusive to the aforementioned teams, and maybe a handful of others.

 

It’s probably fair to guess that for every owner who has reached deep and spared no expense in building facilities, there are probably two more enjoying cushy downtown real estate along with naming rights to their stadiums under farcical leasing terms subsidized largely by taxpayers. Stadium expenses for those teams, if anything, likely amount to the payback of loans taken out against property largely gifted to the teams courtesy of their cities. How do we quantify their increased expenses for those teams in the face of exponential growth to the league’s revenue pool in an otherwise stagnant economy?

 

Maybe we simply concede that any time the teams who are already substantially out earning everyone else begin clamoring for ways to increase everyone’s margins and thereby close the gap between the league’s best and worst earning franchises, representatives of the latter would quite predictably jump aboard.

 

What’s even more fun to speculate about is how much of a role Jones (and his new building) has in the recently unearthed – and still unfolding – drama surrounding the Fiesta Bowl and the misappropriation of funds scandal. It should have been an easy guess that once that building was constructed, it would somehow find its way into the BCS picture. The drama now provided courtesy of the Fiesta Bowl investigation would seem to open the door for just such a happenstance.

 

As cynical sports fans, jaded by so many years of corruption and mismanagement in seemingly all sports, we might guess that the reason folks have found inequities around the Fiesta Bowl is simply because they bothered to look; and that if they bothered to look at the rest, they’d likely find a similar brand of misappropriation. For that matter, how many “fun” and “creative” bookkeeping practices would we find in the books of NFL owners if they were ever compelled to open them? Luckily for those in charge of the other BCS Bowls, Jones has only one building (and therefore one Bowl) to shop; and luckily for those in charge of the other NFL teams the maverick Jerry Jones is riding with them. They’ve seen what it’s like to oppose him too.

 

So as Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith take care of all of the dirty work in the proverbial trenches of NFL labor, and player after player, owner after owner and agent after agent offer ridiculous sound bytes and summations of the proceedings, is Jerry Jones (and a small faction of similar minded owners) the driving force behind it? Is Jones the face of the lockout? Given his notorious ego, I’m not altogether sure he’d be unhappy about being the face anything, as long as it came with exposure.

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