It’s that time of year in sports when impossible buzzer-beater shots are taken, small school underdogs defeat major college powerhouses, and well thought out and meticulously made brackets are busted. The NCAA basketball championship, more commonly referred to as “March Madness”, is a tournament held every year to crown the nations top college basketball team. But as the month of March winds down, there has been another form of madness that has stolen the sports headlines usually reserved for the annual contest.
The ongoing NFL labor arguments over a new collective bargaining agreement has taken an ugly turn for the worse. Among the fruitless bickering and the pointing of million dollar fingers at billion dollar faces, the hopes of a football season being played in 2011 are looking more and more bleak. A lot of fans have become so distraught and disheartened that they have intentionally turned away from anything NFL related, finding that the words “dispute” and “negotiate” have become like fingernails down Vince Lombardi‘s chalkboard.
Nonetheless, the world still turns and developments regarding this travesty, no matter how unwelcoming, still arise. So, for those that still care but have lost track of what has happened in the month of March, here is a brief recap of the major happenings associated with the NFL labor situation:
March 1 – Minnesota judge David Doty rules in favor of the NFL Players Association and denies the NFL access to $4 billion in TV revenue. Doty, who states that the league breached its agreement with the NFLPA, orders that a hearing be held to determine damages paid to the NFLPA, as well as the possibility of keeping the NFL from using the revenue should a lockout occur.
March 3 – Hours before the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline for expiration of the CBA, the NFL and the NFLPA agree to a 24-hour extension.
March 4 – After the initial extension, the two sides reach an agreement on another extension of the CBA of seven days (deadline of March 11 at 11:59 p.m. ET) and agree to continue with federal mediation until 5 p.m. ET on March 11.
March 11 – After failing to reach an agreement on a new CBA, the NFLPA applies to decertify as the collective bargaining agent for the players at 5 p.m. ET. Seven hours later, the NFL locks out the players after the expiration of the CBA at 11:59 p.m. ET. The players, including top names like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees, file a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. The dispute now goes before Judge Doty’s court, scheduled for April 6.
March 12 – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash cut their personal salaries to $1 million each for the duration of the lockout.
March 17 – Goodell emails letter to active players, outlining the league’s last proposal to the union. Among the details of the proposal:
- A salary cap for 2011 that would avoid a negative financial impact for veterans.
- Extensive changes in off-season work requirements that would promote player health and safety while also encouraging players to continue their education and promote post-football career opportunities.
- Reduction in preseason and regular-season practices with pads and with contact and increased days off.
- Expanded injury guarantees – including a guarantee of up to $1 million of a second year of a contract for players injured who can’t return to play.
- Lifetime access to medical coverage for players and their families after a player’s retirement.
- Enhanced retirement benefits for pre-1993 players. More than 2,000 former players would have received an immediate increase in pensions averaging nearly 60 percent, funded entirely by owners.
March 22 – Goodell states in a press conference that the league may remove the most recent contract offer if bargaining doesn’t resume soon. Hopes are that negotiating will pick back up before the start of the NFL Draft on April 28.
It appears that the immediate future of the NFL will be time spent more in a courtroom rather than on a football field. However, for everyone involved, including owners, players, and fans, the end of this debacle and the start of the new season can’t come soon enough.
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