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NFL players should weigh options

Here in Arizona, upscale bistros that offer fresh guacamole prepared tableside are all the rage.

Savvy restauranteurs know they won’t stay in business long if they select rock hard, unripened avocados from the local grocer as it results in a bland, tasteless product.

The same principles apply to the current state of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

Owners are now applying a full-court press to get a deal done quickly in order to secure lucrative deals with networks under assurances of long-term labor peace. The “sign off on this now or else we’ll stop negotiating with you” threat creates an artificial sense of urgency.

That isn’t bargaining in good faith; it’s borderline extortion. That should raise a red flag with the rank and file.

Many players believe this proposal represents a great deal. I suggest closer inspection of two components — the proposed 17th game, specifically who will participate in it, and future gambling revenue projections.

The addition of a 17th regular season game would a mean 6.25% workload increase. If this were Major League Baseball, that would equate a 172-game season. No card-carrying member of that union would agree to that without negotiating major concessions from ownership.

What’s overlooked here is by converting the fourth preseason game into a meaningful regular season contest is who will be performing the work and further subjecting themselves to injury.

This game’s participants won’t be undrafted free agents vying for final roster spots. They will be veterans with career clocks already ticking who will be waging the war to help their teams reach the expanded playoffs.

Swapping out the final preseason game for a regular-season finale ensures that half-empty stadiums in late August will be filled to capacity in January.

That lines owners’ pockets with additional revenue from increased concessions and enables networks to command top dollar for commercials that will now air during games that mean something in the standings.

The current proposal contains vague and ambiguous language regarding projected gambling revenue. While never hesitating to reinforce their concern over protecting the league’s image, owner approval of the Raiders’ move the Las Vegas suggests otherwise.

NFL players should memorize two numbers: 2.3 and 60.

Those values appear in a 2018 Nielsen study commissioned by the American Gaming Association to evaluate the impact of legalized betting on pro sports. This study concluded that NFL owners would realize an additional $2.3 billion annually once gambling is legalized nationwide.

That’s a gaudy 28% increase over the $8.2 billion they made in the year preceding the study (2017). It also forecasted a staggering 60% increase in the number of folks wagering on NFL football.

The AGA’s senior VP of public affairs, Sara Slane, said, “We think these numbers are conservative.”

What’s interesting is this study did not account for a 17th regular season game nor any expanded playoff format. If so, then Slane’s comment could go down as the understatement of the millennium.

The owners quantify their present offer at around $5 billion. If this Nielsen study is accurate then they will bank at least $23 billion over the next decade while offering players less than 25% of that windfall.

If NFL owners insist this deal gets done now, players should make it worth their while by insisting on the same 50/50 split the NBA players receive while demanding both greater transparency regarding future gambling revenue and a tiny percentage of that income stream.

Whatever they decide, the players would do well not to rush the process. Let those avocados ripen a little.

Bill Contz was a starting offensive tackle on Penn State’s first national championship football team in 1982 and went on to play six seasons in the NFL with New Orleans and Cleveland. Contz published a book in 2017, “When the Lions Roared: Joe Paterno and One of College Football’s Greatest Teams.” He resides in Pittsburgh and winters in Arizona.

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