It’s hard to get excited about the Seattle Seahawks’ draft choices this past weekend, and not just because they picked a bunch of no-name linemen.
It’s because the lockout of National Football League players by the owners is once again threatening the 2011-12 season — plus an estimated $160 million in revenue in the Seattle area and hundreds of jobs the Seahawks support. On Saturday, an appeals court ruling restored the owners’ lockout that had previously been lifted by a lower court.
These legal skirmishes are the smoke that obscures the fundamental facts surrounding this mess. The NFL owners, including Seahawks multi-billionaire owner Paul Allen, voted unanimously to terminate the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association a year early and have locked the players out. The owners claim they are losing money and are demanding to cut the players’ pay by a total of $1 billion, but they refuse to let the players’ union see the books that show their financial condition.
In today’s Seattle Times, sports columnist Steve Kelley cuts to the chase:
The 2011 season is in jeopardy again because some of the richest people in the world think they need even more money… The net worth of the owners of the 32 NFL teams is around $40 billion. And they want more?
If this lockout meanders into July, some players will have to look for work outside the game. But do you think Seahawks owner Allen is pondering the idea of selling off one of his helicopters, or maybe a submarine, so he can make ends meet? You think any of these billionaires will suffer even the slightest hiccup in their daily routines? The players will be doing all of the suffering.
In the New Yorker, James Surowiecki explains that the reason owners are doing this has nothing to do with losing money. None of them are. It has to do with billionaires like Allen wanting to make even more money, but the economic downturn has made it harder for them to raise ticket prices and to get local governments to subsidize new stadiums, like we have done here in Seattle.
It’s about very rich businessmen thinking that they should be even richer.
But the victims of the lockout aren’t confined to the playing field, its the working people who sell concessions at Qwest Field and those in the hotel, restaurant and hospitality industries that benefit from Seahawks games who may also be victimized by NFL owners’ greed. And it’s also the City of Seattle and the people who rely on its public services.
Months before the lockout, Rick Bender, then-President of the Washington State Labor Council, wrote Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn asking him to contact Paul Allen and urge against this harmful lockout:
It is very disheartening to realize that both Seahawks fan loyalty and the state-provided subsidies that have benefited the team are apparently being taken for granted by NFL owners like Mr. Allen… The impact (of a lockout) would be devastating to the thousands of working families in the Puget Sound region whose incomes depend on the business that the Seahawks generate.
Apparently, the consequences of a lockout don’t concern Mr. Allen these days. He’s too busy polishing his legacy as a software tycoon with his new memoir, “Paul Allen: Idea Man.” But if he doesn’t change his mind soon about the lockout, his legacy will be that of another greedy billionaire businessman who doesn’t care about his employees, his customers, and his community.