Arlen Specter wants congressional intervention in NFL labor fight


The owners and players of the National Football League have been battling it out over various issues involving a new employment contract (of course, using the phrase “various issues” is another way of saying “money”) and former Senator Arlen Specter (R- no, make that D-PA) wants Congress to step in and make sure the 2011 season is played.

In an OpEd piece in the New York Times, Specter said that calling off the next season is about much more than millions of disappointed football fans.

“Edgeworth Economics, a consulting firm, studied the cost of a canceled 2011 season (at the request of the players association) and estimated it to be about $5 billion from lost jobs, decreased spending at local businesses and reduced tax revenue. In addition, billions of dollars in TV revenue and millions of dollars in ticket sales would vanish” he wrote.

Here’s Specter’s prescription: “To ensure an agreement between the owners and players in time for the 2011 season, Congress should place a special condition on the continuation of the NFL’s antitrust exemption: the owners and players must abide by a settlement procedure known as last-best-offer arbitration. This procedure would require the two sides to negotiate; if an agreement is not reached, each side would make its last best offer and an arbitrator would chose between the two. This arrangement creates an incentive for each side to make the more reasonable offer, lest the arbitrator pick the other side’s.”

Specter noted that the record of Congress is not good when it comes to making threats to major league sports owners, but he said conditions for Congressional action may be much better this time. For one thing, the uncertainty has fans on edge, and fans can vote.

Specter notes that John Conyers (D-MI) already has a bill in the works targeting the owners’ anti-trust exemption on grounds that the lockout combined with a deal negotiated with broadcasters for rights constitutes bargaining in bad faith. Specter suggests Congress start moving the Conyers bill along.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is not rocket science. There is a certain amount of money available. The players deserve an entertainer’s pay, and the owners deserve a profit.

Fans who are already dealing with an economy that is depressing enough are not amused by a billionaire v. millionaire chicken fight. Do a deal – or maybe Congress will step in.