Editorial: Let the fans into the NFL talks

Published 11:56 am Thursday, February 17, 2011

Let the fans of the NFL into the negotiating room where collective bargaining talks are under way between players and owners. That’ll speed things up.

You might be surprised to learn there is a organization that represents you, the fans, called the Sports Fans Coalition. Its leaders sent a letter Tuesday to the leaders of the NFL and NFL Players Association that makes some compelling arguments.

Here is what the letter said:

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“We are not asking for a seat at the negotiating table — although we believe fans deserve one — but merely to be present in the room so that we may inform fans across the country about the state of ongoing negotiations and ensure that progress is being made towards an agreement that ensures a central consideration of fans.

“As fans and taxpayers, we have invested over $6.5 billion around the country on NFL stadiums, in addition to the billions we have spent on tickets and NFL merchandise. We have transformed our urban centers with the promise that new stadiums would serve as an economic boon to the surrounding community. A work stoppage would be devastating to many cities, including local workers and businesses.

“The NFL and other professional sports leagues also enjoy an exemption from federal antitrust statutes with respect to negotiating broadcast rights, which has enabled the owners and players to make significant revenues.

“If the NFL and NFLPA cannot come to an agreement and a devastating work stoppage is the result, the public has a right to know why.

“Hopefully, both sides can come to an agreement in the immediate future and this great American sport can continue to bring happiness to the many fans, families, and communities that enjoy professional football. Until then, the fans deserve to know that someone in the negotiation process is looking out for their best interests.”

The letter was signed by Brian Frederick, the executive director of the Sports Fan Coalition, and by David Goodfriend, the board chairman.

They make good points. It’s clear the people of America have given much to the NFL, and the NFL owners and players have benefitted mightily. Greed is getting in the way.

What is this coalition?

The Sports Fan Coalition is an organization that seeks to give fans a say in sports issues, primarily where fans get the short straw. Examples are TV blackouts, the lack of a college football playoff, cable-company broadcast ransoms (like Comcast and the Portland Blazers), the seating issue at the Super Bowl and taxpayers funding too large of a share for stadiums.

You can even find some gems. Yankee Stadium displaced ballfields, pools and other park amenities. The Yankees had promised to replace these, but after two years, nothing. And South Bronx, it notes, is the poorest place in America, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Perfectly good pizzas after Oklahoma Sooners football games — and at arenas across the country — are tossed in the garbage. Why not transport them to the needy or even help a few college students with a free meal? The story points out how many sports arenas have begun to make positive use of unsold food after games.

And you can find an interesting piece titled “The Los Angeles Vikings?” It notes the wide range of America that roots for the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings’ fandom crosses much of the northern Great Plains, not just Minnesota. The writer notes how California has teams all over — San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego. Vikings territory extends at least a thousand miles from Minneapolis. Moving the Vikings to Los Angeles, he implies, would anger a lot of loyal fans.

The coalition’s website is sportsfans.org.