The NFL would like you to believe there will be a 2011 season. Not only that, they need you to believe there will be a 2011 season. They don't want you to stop spending your hard-earned money on NFL merchandise, NFL-endorse products, and of course, tickets and seat licenses for games next season.
Consider Monday's letterto fans from Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Blank writes, "I'm sure our current position raises questions by you regarding the status of the 2011 season," (yes) but then says that the "most important thing you should know is that we remain committed to reaching an agreement that is fair to both sides and does not disrupt the 2011 season." These aren't the droids you're looking for...
But here's the truth -- now that the NFL lockout is upon us -- and the NFL Players Association has decertified -- it is more likely than ever that there will be missed games in the 2011 season. Both sides share the blame for this. Just as both sides stand to profit off fans when a new agreement is finally reached.
The fact that stadiums may sit empty on Sundays this fall hasn't changed NFL teams' season ticket policies. Or stopped them from shamefully selling personal seat licenses.
It's business as usual for NFL teams, even though, for the time being, they don't have a product to sell.
So NFL fans are being forced to hand over their money on the chance that there will be a season, which isn't the same as purchasing tickets (and seat licenses) for a 2011 season. I'm not an expert on issues of fraud, but this situation sure smells fishy.
The NFL has announced that season ticket holders will receive full refunds for any games missed. But that means that the teams have access to a tremendous amount of money to collect interest on in the meantime.
Will NFL teams return money for missed games with interest?
Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf and some other owners are promisingseason ticket holders/; "Simple interest, calculated at an annual rate of 1%, will be paid on refunds. Interest will be calculated for the period beginning on the date that a game is cancelled through the date that the refund is processed." One percent! And only if you act now and send payment!
NFL teams should immediately cease soliciting payment for season tickets, individual game tickets and personal seat licenses. And NFL players should call on NFL teams to do so, as well. Far too often, NFL players ask the fans for support without actually going to bat for the fans, themselves. Here's one of those times they can speak on for fans, even it it's against their own best interests.
If NFL owners and players are unwilling to do this, Sports Fans Coalition will ask the Federal Trade Commission and the States Attorneys General to look into the issue of NFL teams soliciting money for a product that -- as of now -- doesn't exist.
(Keep in mind that virtually all NFL teams play in stadiums that have received some, if not all, of their financing from the public.)
Otherwise, at the worst, the NFL will be guilty of defrauding fans out of their money. At best, the NFL will be asking fans to bear the brunt of a work stoppage.
Either way, the fans lose. Again.
Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of SportsFans.org. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and lives in Washington, D.C. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.