If you haven’t already heard, there is a likelihood that the National Football League’s 2011 season could be forfeited.
Representatives from the NFL Players’ Association and NFL team owners have been in negotiations to create a new collective bargaining agreement. In 2006, team owners voted to extend the then CBA through the 2012 season, but two years later owners opted out of the extension, causing the CBA to be terminated this week. If an agreement is not reached, a lockout is likely. Some issues faced in the talks are owners wanting a lower percentage of their revenue going toward player salaries, a possible salary cap for rookie players, the addition of two regular season games, and concern for the safety and healthcare of the players.
Last month, the NFLPA launched the Let Us Play campaign, creating a Twitter hash tag, advertisements featuring players expressing their desire to keep the 2011 season intact and naming Jan. 18 “Let Us Play Day.” On top of that, the organization created NFLLockout.com, a Twitter profile (@NFLLockout) and a NFL Lockout Facebook page. On NFLLockout.com and its Facebook page, visitors are greeted with a pop-up asking them to sign an anti-lockout petition. But the union isn’t the only one creating awareness through social media. According to the New York Times article, “Negotiating an N.F.L. Contract in the Social Media Age,” 716 NFL players have personal Twitter accounts, and many are taking to their profiles to say what they really think of the negotiations.
The NFLPA is taking advantage of popular social media sites to create a stir among fans about the talks in a way that has not been possible during previous CBA negotiations, and it is establishing a connection with the fans in a way that is problematic for team owners. The NFLPA knows that the fans are probably the most hurt group if the situation comes down to a lockout, so it is catering to the emotional side by writing on NFLLockout.com that their beloved football cities will lose millions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of people will lose jobs if owners choose a lockout. The site also claims owners could still make a profit in a lockout season because of pre-paid television contracts.
Brian Gleason, a PR professional formerly with the Boston Celtics, writes in his sports PR blog that the campaign could, however, have consequences. A possible outcome of the negotiations is that the players could go on strike; so, instead of the owners locking out players to get what they want, players could refuse to come to work to get what they want. If this did happen, Gleason says this could create a major PR backlash for the NFLPA because of the Let Us Play campaign. If the players really wanted to play, they would come to an agreement even if they don’t get everything they want, right?
Will this new social-media-based connection with fans affect the outcome of the CBA? I guess we will find out in a few days.
To learn more about the legal issues of the lockout and its possible repercussions, read this blog entry from The Huffington Post.