Diehard fans of the Baltimore Ravens and the Washington Redskins are patiently waiting for the end of the National Football League’s current lockout of its players.

But according to a study released by Maryland’s Comptroller’s Office, football fanatics aren’t the only folks hoping for a speedy return of America’s most popular professional sport.

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot announced on June 22 that the state would lose an estimated $40 million in tax revenues if the upcoming NFL season doesn’t occur.

“As a football fan, I am anxious for both sides to come together and settle this dispute. But as the state’s chief fiscal officer and tax collector, I’m very concerned about what the lack of a season will mean for Maryland’s already tenuous revenue collections,” Franchot stated. “Our economy is still very fragile and while we’ve been meeting our recent revenue estimates, those estimates have been historically conservative. Unanticipated events, such as the lack of revenue from Ravens’ and Redskins’ games, would throw an unwanted speed bump on our road to economic recovery.”

Franchot asked the Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates to calculate the impact Maryland would face if the NFL’s 2011-2012 season, scheduled to begin in August and end in January, were canceled. The “first of its kind” study revealed that approximately $2 million in combined tax revenue would be lost for each Redskins and Ravens game missed this fall/winter. Both the Redskins’ and Ravens’ stadiums are located in Maryland, and there are 20 games played by each team per season (four preseason games and 16 regular season games), which adds up to approximately $40 million in anticipated lost tax revenue.

For some, the lockout has already begun burning holes in their pockets. Fox Sports Radio talk show host Rob Long, one of the most popular sports talk hosts in Baltimore, told the {AFRO} the lockout has already affected his line of business.
“We’ve had a decrease in call volume, as well as a decrease in advertising business volume,” Long said, explaining how Baltimore thrives off the Ravens when it comes to sports radio. “Most sports fans in this area don’t want to talk about the Baltimore Orioles, they want to talk about the Ravens, the more successful team of the two. So if there aren’t Ravens activities occurring this summer, what else are we to talk about?”

Kenan Shoulds, an assistant chef at Mustang’s Alley, an upscale bowling alley/bar/bistro located in downtown Baltimore, said the lockout is a very “scary situation.”
“We get a lot of traffic on Sundays during the NFL season, so I can imagine us losing nearly 40 percent of sales during the fall if there is no season this year,” said Shoulds, adding that several of the Ravens players frequent Mustang’s Alley for private bowling parties throughout the season. “I love to see the stars when they come to bowl, but I’d rather see them on the field on Sundays. Their job helps pay my bills, too, so I’m hoping the season is saved just like the rest of the fans.”

The current lockout began on March 12 when the NFL ended its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the NFL Players’ Association (NFLPA) two years early, citing an “inadequate rate of returns,” according to Forbes.com.

The players’ union disputed NFL owners’ claim that the former CBA awarded a 70/30 split of revenues to players and owners, respectively. Not only was the apportionment closer to 50/50, the union contended, but owners were also guaranteed an additional expense credit per season, which, last year, added up to $1 billion.

According to SportsNetworker.com, $7.2 billion was split between the players and owners last year with $3.8 billion awarded to the players, and $3.4 billion to owners. According to NFLLockout.com, the new deal proposed by owners in March would decrease the players’ cut by 18 percent, or $1 billion. The owners also suggested extending the regular season to 18 games, which would increase league profits.

The NFLPA refused the deal, so the owner’s locked them out, denying them access to any league facilities or the ability to communicate with league officials.

The players’ union filed a federal law suit against the league back in March trying to overrule the lockout, which was lifted momentarily after a federal judge found evidence that NFL owners violated an agreement with the NFLPA that requires the league to “make good-faith efforts to maximize revenue for not just league, but its players,” The Associated Press reported. According to the AP, the league’s owners restructured TV broadcast contracts in 2009 and 2010, designing deals with insurance clauses to guarantee owners would still get paid by the TV networks during a lockout.

“There is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lock out players and fans for more than two years,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director for external affairs, told {the AP} shortly after the lockout was lifted in April. “The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on.”

Unfortunately for players, the lockout was reinstated just days later after the league appealed the ruling to be heard by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in June.
Meanwhile, fans, businesses and local governments are wondering if a new deal will be struck before the 2011 season arrives. Ravens’ 14-season veteran receiver Derrick Mason told the Carroll County Times last month he doesn’t think so.

“I’m still hoping it gets worked out, but more and more, things are getting worse, and it seems less and less likely that things are going to start on time,” Mason said. “You win one and then there’s an appeal, and then you appeal again …. It’s a long legal process.”

According to ESPN, both sides have reopened negotiations on a new deal that would cut the players’ share of revenue to 48 percent, a sacrifice that players are willing to make if the owners are willing to forfeit the additional expense credit they receiver annually. A lot more details need to be tweaked, but ESPN reports the league is very optimistic. Still, no official timetable on a new deal is set.

“I have no idea,” said Jeff Pash, the league’s chief negotiator, when asked by ESPN how close both sides are in reaching a new CBA. “We have to spend a significant amount of time with the players. There’s a lot of work to be done for both parties. I don’t think there’s any way to say it’s close or not close.”


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor