With talk of the NHL’s new CBA still looming and last year’s CBA dance between the players and owners in the NFL, NBA and MLB, I thought it might time to give a little insight into what exactly the CBA is. For some of you die hard sports fans, the CBA is already etched in your brain as part of any sport in which you have owners of teams and the players of those teams in a power struggle that happens about every 5-8 years. I just wanted to refresh your memory for many of you, but this might all be new knowledge to the rest of you. It is something that most fans know is there, but perhaps don’t really care about it. For those of you who aren’t jaded by the business side of sports and want to keep your rosy-colored glasses on, stop reading now.
Unfortunately, every sport is a business and the CBA is what keeps these businesses in harmony. It is the reason we have strikes and lockouts and it is what keeps the players and the owners getting along and happy so that the fans may be happy and, in a perfect world, what truly matters is the happiness of the fans. We, as sports enthusiasts, should take notice of the CBA and keep it in the back of our minds because it helps us to understand our favorite sports even more. It also helps us to understand that to most athletes, the vital factor in their lives is not the fans, but getting paid, which is understandable when you consider that the average career span of a professional athlete is between 3 and 5 years.
The CBA stands for the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It is when negotiations take place between the employers and the employees, in this case the players and the owners. You have the players union, which is usually a collection of current and former players who have a strong sense of diplomacy and are business savvy. On the other side you have the team owners who are trying to find a middle ground where their players are satisfied, but they, as owners, are satisfied with their profits. Normally, the players union and the owners union are put in a room where they can hash out their wants and needs, which are salaries and benefits. The CBA is supposed to allow the players and the owners to voluntarily reach an agreement on a wide range of issues, but naturally it never seems that easy.
Take last year’s NFL lockout for example. The owners and players had a tough time coming to an agreement and it ended up in the owners locking out players from coming to offseason activities which also meant if you couldn’t come to the facilities and work then you didn’t get paid. This, in turn, lead to many prominent players filing law suits against the NFL itself and created quite a shit storm. Luckily, the two sides came to an agreement before the season started and they didn’t have to cancel any games which would have been earth shattering for many football fans. In the end, the players dropped their lawsuits and a new 300+ page CBA was made. I won’t go into the details, but let’s just say most of it focused on the player’s health and safety and, in my opinion, the players got the upper hand, which is the way it should be.
As for last year’s NBA lockout, the fans had to pay the price dearly. The negotiation of the CBA went well into the start of the regular season and we as fans missed over 20 games due to the lack of communication between the players and the owners. I hate to say it but I think that the players were in the wrong on this one. I think the NFL players deserved to get more benefits to help with their health and long-term care because they take a serious beating every year, but the NBA players just want more money. I think it was Patrick Ewing who said during one of the last NBA lockouts that, “we make a lot of money, but we spend a lot too.” I don’t know how that is justification for these already overpaid players to get more money during a time when economic struggles are so prominent for most Americans, but it makes us as fans sick. I respect Patrick Ewing as one of the greatest centers to ever play the game, but when a player goes and makes an asinine statement like that, it makes me want to wipe my hands of the whole sport.
On the other side of the coin, the MLB had a CBA that expired at the end of last year and the players and owners quietly came to an agreement a month before its expiration without either side putting up too much of a fight. I think it goes to show the drastic difference in the overall mentality between NFL, NBA and MLB players because, generally, all the owners are looking for the same thing. This is an example of a group of athletes that appreciate their careers and know that they are tremendously lucky to make a living as a pro.
As you can see, the CBA can get ugly and it can come down to whose egos are bigger. It is basically millionaires fighting with billionaires and it seems like we, as fans, have to suffer through it every few years. The NBA and the NFL have come to agreements that will last almost a decade, but the CBA for the NHL expired this last year and now we have to deal with another struggle between players and owners before the next NHL season. There are many of you out there that knew exactly what the CBA was before you read this, but you also know that in business it is a necessary evil and maybe you learned something new through this and maybe it made you a little jaded towards professional sports and for that I apologize, but it is better to be informed about these things so that you make your own opinions as a sports buff and be able to hold your end of the conversation the next time you are at the bar watching your team and someone brings up this topic.