Sure it’s technically not the NFL season, with the league almost two months removed from its Super Bowl XLV, which set a record for a U.S. broadcast when 111 million tuned in to watch the Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers. But there are still plenty of hits being leveled all around day by day thanks to the NFL lockout that began March 11, which threatens next season and all that momentum earned from one of the best-rated season to date.
The latest came Saturday, when players responded to an open letter from commissioner Roger Goodell, who said the league had met the NFL Players Association halfway in negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement before that contract expired and triggered the lockout. Not only do the players strongly disagree, they don’t even want Goodell and other key league negotiators at the table if and when talks resume — not a good sign if you’re a fan, a network TV exec or DirecTV, which analysts say can lose as much as $600 million in revenue next season owing to lost subscribers to its NFL Sunday Ticket package. (Network rights-holders NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN most certainly would lose significant ad revenue with lesser replacement programming; ESPN might be more protected with other sports to offer, but a network like NBC, which rules Sunday evenings with its Sunday Night Football franchise, is more exposed.)
Goodell recently said he would drop his salary to $1 during the lockout; the players group’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, countered a couple of days later that he’s dropping his salary to $0. And players have contacted this year’s likely top college players to boycott the league’s April draft, suggesting kids who have worked their whole lives for the moment when their name is called to think of their labor brothers first — it’s been that kind of one-upmanship of late. At this rate, no significant movement will emerge before April 6, when a hearing on the players’ injunction to block the lockout will take place. But even if the players win and the lockout is lifted, owners can appeal, making it equivalent of a football game in which all either team does is punt.