Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Reilly, Rick [Print without images]

Thursday, March 3, 2011
Updated: March 8, 10:49 AM ET
NFL owners' false labor pains

By Rick Reilly
ESPN.com

Daniel Snyder, Paul Allen and Jeffrey Lurie
Washington Redskins' Daniel Snyder, Seattle Seahawks' Paul Allen and Philadelphia Eagles' Jeffrey Lurie are just three owners who can't seem to rein in their greed.

Are you the kind of person who loves hearing the bug zapper?

Who likes it when the highway paves over a few neighborhoods? Who secretly wants the tank to flatten the kid with the flower?

Then you're going to love the NFL owners in this mess.

It's hard to find anybody to like in this coming distraction known as the NFL lockout. But look closely. Yes, some of the players are millionaires. But half of the owners are billionaires.

Their estimated combined net worth is well over $40 billion, which is more than the GNP of 150 nations. Paul Allen, owner of the Seattle Seahawks, has a 414-foot yacht called "The Octopus" with two helicopters, two submarines, a swimming pool, a music studio and a basketball court. He also has two backup emergency yachts.

You're really worried about his wallet?

Yes, many of the players are diamond-coated knuckleheads. But have you ever met Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder? He's worth $1.1 billion and yet, two years ago, the Redskins sued a 73-year-old grandmother for not keeping up on her season-ticket package payments.

This man also got caught buying stale peanuts from a defunct airline and reselling them at games.

For the owners to lock out the players at this time in American history is unconscionable. You don't like the players? Fine. There are still nearly 9 percent of Americans out of work. Think of the people who've lost their homes, lost their cars and can barely pay the rent. Watching an NFL game on a Sunday -- and getting ready for it all week -- is sometimes literally the only thing keeping them going.

Do you realize what having no NFL season would do to the economy? According to the NFLPA, it's estimated it would cost each NFL city $160 million and 3,000 jobs. That's 93,000 jobs nationwide. For what? Another Aspen chalet?

Question: In 10 years, do you think you're going to find New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft wandering the streets because of the 200-plus concussions he didn't know he had from his time in the NFL? You figure Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford will end up with ringing in the ears and depression the way former Patriots linebacker Ted Johnson did? Within the past year alone, two former players killed themselves.

You recall any NFL owners killing themselves lately?

The players aren't asking for more money. They deserve what they get, and they get it for an average of only three years. The Bidwills have owned the Cardinals for 79 years. The Rooneys have owned the Steelers for 78 years. Nine NFL owners inherited their teams. There's no easier path to permanent hot-and-cold running jets than your dad handing you an NFL team.

On the other hand, nobody hands NFL players anything but a chinstrap. With what we know about the dangers to brains now, would you exchange jobs with an NFL player?

This isn't baseball. These guys go to a job every day in which safety is Job 1,379.

The people asking for more money are the owners. They want $1 billion more out of the deal they have now.

No set of sports owners in U.S. history has known this kind of popularity, love or cash. If there is a lockout, the day the 2012 season starts, every fan ought to pelt the owners' luxury boxes with pennies.

They say they're losing money. But if you were losing money and were asking for $1 billion back, wouldn't you slap some proof down on the table? The owners are more secretive with their books than KFC is with its recipe.

Take our word for it and just fork over the billion. Oh, and play two more games for free. Thanks.

In this, the greediest and most shameful era in American business history, the NFL owners would steal the cake. No set of sports owners in U.S. history has known this kind of popularity, love or cash. If there is a lockout, the day the 2012 season starts, every fan ought to pelt the owners' luxury boxes with pennies.

Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Philadelphia Eagles, owns an 18-bedroom estate with a three-hole golf course, two-lane bowling alley, two-story recreation center and indoor tennis court. He's really going to lock players out? For what, his own ski hill?

Stan Kroenke, owner of the St. Louis Rams, owns four homes, four ranches and three vineyards. He once ordered his employees to destroy $3 million in wine because he didn't think it was up to his standards. His wife is a Wal-Mart heiress.

Are you really fretting about his future?

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the other day that the owners need this money to build new stadiums. And who profits from new stadiums? The owners. A new stadium doesn't make the team any better. The seat under your butt isn't any bigger. But a new stadium, usually built with vats of your tax dollars, funnels millions more per game into an owner's pocket via luxury boxes, concessions and advertising. That's money that isn't shared 32 ways. What Goodell is saying is, "We need that billion so my owners can buy new Bentleys. Theirs are dusty."

Locking out the players now would be unjust, unfair and as indefensible as Al Davis' wardrobe. There is so much to go around, it's obscene. A billion back? These guys have that in cash.

Malcolm Glazer, owner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, once bought a $14 million Palm Beach mansion and never moved into it. He later sold it for $24 million.

Bud Adams, owner of the Tennessee Titans, has 10,000 head of cattle.

Jennifer Lopez, part owner of the Miami Dolphins, has offered to auction off her twins' clothes because they're not allowed to "repeat" outfits.

When's the telethon?


Love the column, hate the column, got a better idea? Go here.

Rick Reilly is the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year. He contributes essays and commentary to "SportsCenter" and ESPN/ABC golf and tennis coverage. He's also the host of "Homecoming," ESPN's unique, one-hour interview show set in the hometowns of legendary athletes. For more Rick, check out the archive.


Feel like taking a detour from sane sports? Try Rick's new book, "Sports from Hell."