No one wants to believe that the NFL could follow the labor trajectory of the NHL and miss an entire season like the hockey league did during the season that didn’t happen in 2004-2005.
But former Chicago Bears linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer draws some parallels and then tries to point out major differences in a column he penned for NBC Chicago.
Hillenmeyer, a veteran who was educated at Vanderbilt and has received an MBA from Northwestern, was the Bears’ player rep to the NFLPA for several seasons. The team released him after he was forced to sit out nearly all last season following a concussion. He’s remained active with the NFLPA, and sat in on negotiations in Washington.
He draws the most apparent comparison when pointing out that outside counsel Bob Batterman led NHL owners in a lockout as he has done with NFL owners. Then, Hillenmeyer quickly gets to the points that don’t add up.
“How is the NFL a different story? Let's start with the big picture. The NHL was hemorrhaging cash during its negotiations with players. Owners lost less money in the lockout year than they would have lost in operating another season under the status quo. Even in the current NBA labor dispute, Commissioner David Stern has been very explicit in explaining that teams are losing around $400 million annually in their league.
“On the contrary, not a single NFL owner, not one time, has claimed that any team in our league has lost a penny. In 2010, seventy of the one hundred most watched television shows of the entire year were NFL games. Think about that for a second, despite all the huge sitcoms and reality TV shows like American Idol, 70% of the most watched shows on television were NFL games. Our Pro Bowl, which is admittedly the worst of the four major sports' All-Star games, had more viewers than Game 6 of the World Series. The NFL has more revenue than the NHL, NBA, and MLB, COMBINED.”
It’s an interesting read from Hillenmeyer, who always has thoughtful and candid points to make. That doesn’t mean it’s going to make dividing the $9 billion pie any easier. Both sides are deeply entrenched at this point and the best thing we can say at this point is we’re another day closer to the April 6 court date for owners and players.
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune