MINNEAPOLIS -- Football fans waited for months for the return of the NFL; the 2010 season is now off and running. But it looks like a similar, successful start to the 2011 season is in serious doubt.
"It's going to be a mess," sports law and labor expert John Wendt said. Wendt is a professor at the University of St. Thomas, and he's been following the possibility of a lockout, next season, very closely. "Right now both sides are holding out so much, the problem is neither side is talking," he noted.
It is certainly on the player's minds. Before the Vikings/Saints game, players from both teams raised their index fingers toward the roof of the Superdome. "We just wanted to show everybody that we're unified as a union, as players, and that's a serious deal," Vikings Union Representative and Offensive Guard Steve Hutchinson said after the game.
Wendt says the players get 59% of the league's revenue and the owners take the remaining 41%. The owners are now hoping to get 59% of the money, citing financial hardship after paying escalating operating and player costs. The two sides have talked 3 times since February but have made little progress on the Collective Bargaining Agreement that expires after the 2010 season.
"This could really happen, if there's a lockout, it's not going to be a strike, it's going to be a lockout," Wendt warns.
The player's union has a lockout countdown ticking off seconds on its website. Wendt doesn't expect much negotiation progress until the season wraps up. A possible 18 game schedule could be a sticking point; a rookie salary cap could be a starting point.
"But until you get one step in, it's going to be a very, very long road. Everybody wants to play the game, but it's a question about money. Right now it's about an 8 billion dollar question," Wendt said.
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