The Only NFL Lockout Article I’ll Ever Write: Don’t Hate The Players

On Friday, Arian Foster tweeted this picture, saying: "I signed the CBA."

Oh, if it were as simple as that, Arian.

I’ve generally stayed out of this lockout stuff. I hate the lockout. And I think it’s pretty damn boring.

And this past week, I was delightedly optimistic about the end of the lockout coming soon. There were rumors about it ending Thursday, Friday, and, at the very latest, Saturday.

But, it’s Sunday, and there’s still a lockout. What gives? I thought coaches were supposed to be able to talk to the players on Saturday!

Well, we all thought that. But, we were duped.

Vonnie Holliday, a veteran Defensive End for the Washington Redskins, remarks that the owners were tricking fans into thinking the lockout was over.

The owners, and to some extent the national media, had us all thinking that the lockout would end Thursday night, with a vote by the players. The owners had wrapped up their vote Thursday night, and then proceeded with decrees of “Let’s get back to football”, and “I’m just glad we now have 10 years of labor peace”, and high fives all around. Effectively signalling to the average fan that the lockout was over.

What made it worse was that the NFL then posted “tentative schedules” and “CBA details” online. Those naturally spread like wildfire. With fans thinking, “Oh joy! The players return to their lockers July 23rd? Yippee!”.

That was me on Thursday evening. But, when the players didn’t even vote Thursday night, this was me:

“Why haven’t those f****** players signed that agreement? I thought it was supposed to be over! Those players are so greedy!”

It’s fair to say  that I was pretty livid on Thursday night. I mean, most fans were. On Thursday night, fan opinion was overwhelmingly in favor of the owners:

Angry comments directed towards the players from Pro Football Talk's article on Thursday Night. The article was "Report: De Smith tells player reps there is no agreement with the NFL"

So, motivated by my anger against the players, I began to actually read about the lockout *gasp!*

On Thursday night, the owners ratified their proposed CBA. That meant that the players could effectively end the lockout on Thursday by re-certifying as a union and ratifying the same CBA proposed by the owners. But, they didn’t. And, fans were crushed.

What actually had happened was that the players didn’t even have the owners’ version of the proposed CBA until late Thursday night (the world expected them to have voted on it Thursday evening). Not only this, but, according to the players, the owners may had changed some details from previous negotiations.

On Thursday night, Saints fullback Heath Evans tweeted that the owners may have slipped new details into their proposed CBA

That may or may not be true. But, it’s a 300-400 page document. Ending the lockout is not like flipping a switch. If you were the players, wouldn’t you want your lawyers to at least check and make sure everything was right before signing it?

So, on Saturday, the lawyers set to work like busy bees reading the owner’s proposed CBA.

By Saturday, fan sentiment had shifted, largely dude to several reports of a “powerplay” being made by the owners to shift fan sentiments against the fans. (John Clayton reported this initially, and several reports followed: FS OHIO, FOX, AP, etc.) The tides had shifted, but owners still had the majority of the support:

A Poll from CBS Sports' NFL Homepage. General fan support was still in favor of the owners on Saturday afternoon.

I firmly believe that this powerplay was what actually happened. The posting of the “tentative schedule” and “CBA Details” online was the most concerning of the owners’ moves. They turned the players into the bad guys. The owners promised the world that the lockout would be over July 23rd, and if that didn’t happen, it was because of the players.

The Bengals actually took it a step further. They literally e-mailed their fans that the lockout was over:

You Ready for Some Football?

Dear XXXXX,

We are excited to let you know that the NFL has reached a new Collective Bargaining Agreement that allows the entire NFL season to be played this year.

The NFL is the most popular sport in America. Our games are intense, unifying and meaningful to fans in the stadium and to those watching at home. We are thrilled to have a labor deal in place that will provide fans with a decade of certainty and that will allow us to focus all our energies where they ought to be – on the playing field. The upcoming 2011 season will surely be exciting, and football work will begin shortly. Our coaches will begin meeting with players, and the Club will welcome back talented veterans along with exciting rookies from the April NFL Draft, like top picks A.J. Green and Andy Dalton. Whether all of that will take place in Cincinnati or Georgetown, Kentucky, will be decided shortly once we receive the NFL’s operating schedule.

Two years ago, our football team swept the AFC North—one of the toughest divisions in football—and many key components of that team remain, including defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and a defense that ranked in the top half of the NFL for three straight seasons. The area of the team that will change the most will be the offense with a new direction under offensive coordinator Jay Gruden and new faces at quarterback and wide receiver. The mix of veterans and rookies should return our offense to the top level we need, and we are excited by the challenge.

This year—like others before it—we will focus our energies on returning to the Super Bowl again. That’s what we want and that’s what our fans want, and our franchise has been blessed with great support from fans for decades. Last season we reached a record-setting 57th straight sellout—a string we hope to restart soon—and our games have been the most-watched television program in the local market for the last applicable 96 ratings weeks. This is great football country, and incredibly: 95% of the Cincinnati population watched an NFL game during the 2009 season (third highest ranking among NFL markets).

We are very grateful to our fans, we thank you for your patience during the labor stoppage, and now we look forward to a great season together. Who Dey!

Sincerely,

Katie Blackburn

Marvin Lewis

Whether this was simply a silly mistake by the Bengals front office or not, it is embarrassing to the organization.

So, whatever your stance is, please, I beg you not to immediately jump on the bandwagon that the players are being greedy b*****. The owners made this huge (and admittedly genius) push to get the fans on their side. And the fans did. Things are looking better, but don’t be quick to rush to judgment against the players.

Updates on the lockout: Now that the all the excitement and drama from Thursday night has finally calmed down, there are still things that need to be worked out before the players can vote.

But, the experts fully expect us to get back to football and not lose a pre-season game. In fact, some people believe that the players may vote on the new CBA on Monday. If they say yes, the lockout will be over!

From the NFL Network’s Albert Breer, there is progress being made.

From ESPN, the league year could begin on Wednesday with a player vote occurring on Monday.

And here’s some happy tweets if your morning isn’t going so great:

Chris Mortensen, Albert Breer, and Adam Schefter all have good things to say about the lockout ending soon. Saturday was a good day in labor talks. (ignore the Ochocinco tweet, lol...)

 


Topics: Lockout, NFL Lockout

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