In the NFL Lockout is the Media Reporting or Taking Sides?

If the Opera Isn’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings Than Justice Isn’t Decided Until the Last Level of the Court System Has Ruled

(This blog was originally posted on the Yahoo Contributor Network on May 1st, 2011. As of 7/31/14 YCN has taken down all of its content)

A philosophical question that has been asked for ages is if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a noise? I would like to rephrase the question as follows: If a hundred thousand trees in the forest fall how far away can you be and still hear it?

We have a lot of media these days and when they say something over and over again, in all of their forms, TV, internet, newspaper and radio, it tends to amplify the emotional resonance. When I was growing up, a sports labor dispute during that sports off-season might be newsworthy but nothing to stop the presses over. A lockout (prior to a season starting) would kick it up a notch but nowhere near the decibel level it is today.

Yes it is hard to feel sympathy and easy to feel antipathy when billionaires fight with millionaires over how to divide their pie. However, in the end it’s a business just like any other business and the fact that more money is involved doesn’t change human nature. Two sides will fight not necessarily for what is fair but for the most they can get. Neither willing to show their hand or offer their best deal until who has what leverage is revealed and or desperation sets in. Leverage is where the courts come in.

As many of you know by now it has been widely reported that the lead attorney for the NFL players, Jim Quinn, has minimized Friday’s order to reinstate the lockout instituted by the owners. His quote is that it is a: “Routine grant of stay and totally expected”.

Yet given the media’s response you would think Roe V. Wade was just overturned. Like a bad a reality show or Charlie Sheen’s life, this off-season lockout is a story that the media has sunk its teeth into.

As for their coverage…

Question: who populates a good percentage of sports talk and news shows on ESPN, FOX Sports and talk radio? Answer: Former athletes and sports journalists that are fans of sports, who also work side by side with former athletes and want to interview current athletes.

Question: How do people who cover sports make money? Answer: By covering sports! So if a sport goes down, that can’t be good for business.

Thus there are potentially multiple conflicts of interest in covering the collective bargaining negotiations especially when you factor in that benefits to ex players are part of the negotiations! This doesn’t guarantee biased coverage but it does suggest you should look out for it.

Anyone with a high school diploma ought to know that typically between a plaintiff and a defendant either side will brag in-between rounds of court decisions based on who gets the favorable ruling. However, the media should act responsibly and not act, editorialize, or cheer-lead (like some are doing) as if it is over after the first ruling and between levels of the judicial system.

I wouldn’t have expected the owners to cave on their position after Judge Nelson’s ruling any more than I would have expected the players to had she ruled differently. The weird thing is from the outset, Minneapolis was always viewed as a friendly venue for the players and St. Louis for the owners.

The lifting of the lockout and its subsequent stay were nothing to get hyperbolic about. To paraphrase Miami Heat President Pat Riley, this labor dispute will get interesting when someone loses on their home court.

Until ultimate leverage is determined we are looking at preliminary rounds of negotiations. When the courts are done or as games are in jeopardy than the test of wills and negotiations will truly begin. That is when we will see who is willing to negotiate in good faith. Chatter before then is gossip and speculation. If it does get that far than bring on your wall to wall to coverage, bring on your hyperbole, and shine your spotlight on what both sides are willing to do and not do.

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For the record… I’m not a lawyer but it seems to me that when a collective bargaining agreement expires, if players have a right to strike, owners should have a right to lockout.

I say this while I agree with the players about keeping the season to sixteen games over eighteen, and I agree with the players that if the owners want them to give back money based on their finances then some degree of opening the books by the owners should happen. On the owners side I agree there has to be a rookie wage scale but given the short career expectancy of players there should be some combination of performance bonus and or opt out restricted free agency based on performance for the player.

And all the talk of a publicity hit and damage to the game is nonsense. In the end the game will be fine because people love it, they bet on it, there are twenty year waiting lists for season tickets for it, and the same media that rants about it will pump it back up once the games begins because that’s what they do.

Published by Jeff Schubert

Jeff Schubert is the Host/Executive Producer of the show Filmnut that airs on thestream.tv. Each webisode provides an in-depth interview about the making, marketing, or distribution of film, TV or new media…

 

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