The NFL Labor Mess: The Clemenza Principle
Reviewing the carnage of this past week’s negotiations between the NFL and the NFL Players Association reminds me of the Clemenza line from the Godfather.
Talking about gang wars, Pete Clemenza opined that “These things gotta happen every five years or so, 10 years. Helps to get rid of the bad blood.”
Well, suffice it to say there’s lots of bad blood that’s going to have to be purged. What began as a very contentious series of negotiations, the talks have erupted into full scale labor war with the NFLPA’s decision to decertify and throw this whole matter into the courts where the NFL’s ace-in-the-hole anti-trust exemption may be put to an ultimate test.
It may well work out for the players. The NFL’s track record in the courts has been pretty bad for decades. Maybe the union figures that with a president in the White House who’s perceived by many as pro labor and anti-big business, the time is now right to go all in.
However I would caution the NFLPA to remember one little marketing principal about the NFL that I think they lose sight of. At the end of the day, the fans allegiance is to that brand on the side of each helmet – their favorite team. It is NOT about a particular player or players.
Sure, the fans in New Orleans are Drew Brees fans and New England fans love Tom Brady….for now. But Brees, Brady, Peyton Manning, Adrian Peterson will eventually get old and move on. And the teams they play for will remain. And Saints fans will still be Saints fans because the true allegiance they have is to their team, not a player whose accumulated good will can go out the window quickly with a downturn in performance.
Not that the owners are covering themselves in glory either. The NFL’s ownership roster is a pretty eclectic group – ranging from the chronically cheap Brown family in Cincinnati, to the Rooney’s – who can thank a card game for their ownership of the Steelers - to guys like Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder who paid a fortune for their franchises, sunk a ton of money into new stadiums and are now leveraged to the nth degree.Continued on the next page