The NFL's labor deal: Winners and losers

Football's players and owners come to terms on a 10-year collective bargaining agreement that saves the imperiled 2011 season

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers celebrates a touchdown pass: NFL players may celebrate even more as the league's four-month lockout comes to an end.
(Image credit: Erich Schlegel/Corbis)

NFL players and owners reached a deal on Monday that ends a four-month lockout, and puts everyone back to work in time for the 2011 season. A spat over player salaries and safety, league revenue, and the length of the season had threatened to delay, or even cancel, this year's slate of games. But now, with a 10-year collective bargaining agreement in place, fans can rest easy that a decade's worth of Sundays are now spoken for. Since "every dispute must have a winner and a loser," as The New York Times' William C. Rhoden puts it, here's a rundown of who benefits, and who got burned, from this deal:



Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

The heroes of the gridiron got quite a deal, says Peter King at Sports Illustrated. Forget the owners' desire for an 18-game season. The 16-game schedule is here to stay. Plus, players won $1 billion in extra benefits for retirees, and a salary floor which, at 95 percent or more of the salary cap, will ensure that teams keep shelling out for player salaries. "In the end, this deal — against all odds — is a victory for players, their families, their health, and their long-term financial solvency, says Dave Zirin at The Nation. "It's also an example for workers across the country. There is power in labor and there is power in solidarity."


The bosses won, too, says Clark Judge at CBS Sports. They'll take home "a greater share of all revenues." Here's how it works: "Under the old system, [owners] lopped off $1 billion from the top," and then revenues were essentially split 50-50 with players. "Under the new agreement, there is nothing lopped off the top," but owners will pocket 53 percent of the revenue instead of 50 percent. "If, as some figures predict, the NFL becomes a $20 billion industry by 2020 you can see why this makes for good business."


"They spent the spring and early summer in limbo," says Clifton Brown at Aol Sporting News, "watching a league they have supported wholeheartedly fight over millions. Fans deserve this settlement even more than the players and owners." Indeed, says Travis Miller at SB Nation, "now we're going to have games, and our long national nightmare is over."


"Neither side got everything they wanted, but good negotiations are like that," says Don Banks at Sports Illustrated. Both sides realized it was in their best interest to strike a deal, and they did what needed to be done. "Politicians in Washington... are you paying attention?" asks Mike Freeman at CBS Sports.



Sure, fans won't miss a single down now that the 2011 season is back on. But "Average Joes will foot the bill in one form or another, through television and tickets and merchandise and corporate money that generate more than $9 billion in revenue," says Bucky Gleason in the Buffalo News. Owners and players will say they worked this out for us, but really, they're the ones who make all the money on the deal. The rest of us working stiffs are just lining their pockets.


"The four-month lockout has been an embarrassing display of distrust, legal ploys, power plays and rich-guy shadiness," says Jerry Brewer in the Seattle Times. Even as we go back to normal, "there's a part of me that wishes there would be repercussions" for greedy owners who threatened to take football away from us. And while we will forgive and forget, "the NFL should be careful not to test its loyalists" again.

Quality of play

"We're going to see some bad football," says Bob Kravitz in the Indianapolis Star. "There's ample reason to be concerned. A lost summer will mean a lost fall; the play, from top to bottom in this league, will surely suffer" from the time away. Particularly for rookie quarterbacks, says Judge at CBS Sports, who need all the time they can get to adjust to new offenses. "Fasten your seat belts, guys; it's going to be a bumpy ride."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.