We're officially down the rabbit hole.
Ninety days into the lockout and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is now trying to convince fans that the lockout is in their best interests.
Thanks, but no thanks.
On Wednesday, Goodell talked with Tampa Bay Buccaneers season ticket holders on a conference call and explained why NFL owners are locking the players out.
"We can't continue to shift the cost, whether it's the rising player cost or the rising cost of operating an NFL franchise, on to our fans,'' he said. "That's why we're trying to get a better economic model."
Goodell added: "And I think everyone understands that. You are not being left out of the equation. The fans are a big part of that equation and a big part of the success of NFL football.''
Needless to say, Goodell's comments have been mocked from fans and the media. A sampling:
@MikeSilver: "@ProFootballTalk: Roger Goodell tells fans lockout is for them, too http://bit.ly/itxY2z" the nobility of the owners' cause overwhelms me
@StephStradley: REALLY?! OK, write in new CBA cost savings go to fans RT @ProFootballTalk Goodell tells fans lockout is for them too http://wp.me/p14QSB-z4l
@EaglesCouch I'm glad someone is fighting for the fans! RT @ProFootballTalk Goodell tells fans lockout is for them too http://wp.me/p14QSB-z4l
@Grantland_Rice Think of the thousands we will save not attending games! Mr. Goodell's generous concern for fans outshines Saint Nicholas himself.
Of course, everyone realizes that owners aren't really concerned about shifting costs -- they're concerned about protecting profits. They will pass on the costs to the consumer (and taxpayers) just as much as is necessary to ensure they continue to make the profits they feel they deserve.
You want a better economic model, Mr. Goodell? Start with public ownership. No, I'm not saying the owners have to give up their teams. I'm saying that if there are rising costs (primarily driven by the owners insistence on lavish new stadiums with luxury boxes they can sell), then allow fans to help pay these costs by giving them small ownership stakes. What fan wouldn't jump at the chance to buy a share of his or her favorite team? Problem solved.
You want the players to take $1 billion less? Give them ownership stakes. Players would jump at this. But the owners you represent don't want to do that. "My clients don't want to be partners with your guys," your lawyers told the NFLPA.
Okay, maybe those things are too radical. How about simply opening up the books? Worried about the economic future of the game? Make a solid case using numbers that everyone can see.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, fans are being "left out of the equation." Why are fans and the public not allowed to have representation in these negotiations if they are such a concern? Certainly, one could make the case that fans and taxpayers are entitled to have representation given the massive public investment we've made in the game (at least $6.5 billion on stadiums alone).
Mr. Goodell, I don't envy you having to defend the fact that owners are willing to cancel games because they want to protect their profits (because they don't want to address their own broken revenue sharing model). But please spare us the platitudes. No one wants to hear them.
Not the workers in and around the stadiums -- many of whom who will really suffer without games being played. Not the small businesses who may go out of business without Sunday football.
Not the taxpayers who have paid billions to build this game up so the owners and players could profit.
And certainly not the fans, who are being forced to see football owners and players fight over how to divide up the massive profits we give them.
How about you work on convincing NFL owners that they're looking a gift horse in the mouth?
Brian Frederick is the Executive Director of Sports Fans Coalition. He holds a Ph.D. in Communication and lives in Washington, D.C. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.