As the eyes of the entire nation were focused on Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, for Super Bowl XLV last Sunday, very few spectators realized that it could be the last professional football game of this calendar year.
Much like the NHL in 2004-05, the NBA in 1998-99 and MLB in 1994-95, the NFL is hurtling toward a lockout as its labor talks drag on, and the actions of NFL owners this season have only served to confirm that reality. Case in point: Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and the Super Bowl seating debacle.
There’s no question that Jones has put his life and soul into the Dallas Cowboys. He built them a brand new, state-of-the-art, billion-dollar stadium in North Texas and convinced the other owners to award Dallas the Super Bowl for the first time in NFL history. When his wish was granted, Jones did whatever he could to maximize attendance (and profits) at Super Bowl XLV. This included the infamous construction of temporary seating as well as the creation of standing areas outside the stadium where fans would pay $200 to stare at a TV screen.
Needless to say, his plan for Super Bowl weekend did not go off without a hitch. Fans that held tickets for the temporary seating found their seats cordoned off, inaccessible by any means. For them, it became an ordeal as opposed to what it was supposed to be — an enjoyment of America’s grandest sporting event.
Some distraught ticket holders sued the Cowboys, the NFL and Jones himself for breaches of contract, fraud and deceptive sales practices. Despite whatever Jones and the NFL do in their attempt to calm the situation now, this crisis has given the American public a look at the nature of an NFL owner and a reason to fear for the fate of football next season
As the NFL Players Association continues negotiations with the NFL to avoid a lockout, the largest issues on the table pertain to the almighty dollar. The NFL, represented by Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners, wants the players to take a 20-percent pay cut and agree to extend the season from 16 to 18 games, among other things. If met, these demands would provide a significant financial benefit to the owners. On the other hand, the NFLPA wants to maintain the status quo, specifically as it pertains to the sharing of revenue.
Prior to the Super Bowl, I thought compromise was a genuine possibility. But the actions of Jerry Jones last weekend changed my mind.
Jones’ unquenchable thirst for profits — at the expense of Super Bowl ticket holders — solidified for me the picture of the “fat cat” ownership of the NFL. There’s no question in my mind that Jones and his fellow owners are not willing to give up the potential profits from an 18-game season or the financial benefits of a 20-percent “giveback” from the players.
Now, more than any other time in NFL history, is the least appropriate time for a lockout. Professional football remains the most popular sport in the United States, and Super Bowl XLV was the most-watched television program in history, garnering 111 million viewers. The NFL generates almost $10 billion in revenue each season, significantly more than the NBA or MLB. Regardless, it’s still well on its way to a lockout, and the greed of owners like Jerry Jones makes a work stoppage look all the more likely.
Steven Keithley is a freshman in the School of Foreign Service. AFTER THE WHISTLE appears in every other Friday edition of HOYA SPORTS.