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De Smith is convinced there will be a lockout

Well, the talks between the NFL and the players union aren’t going well.

Per the Associated Press, NFLPA Executive Director De Smith told reporters in Indianapolis on Monday that he’s convinced that owners will lock out the players after the current Collective Bargaining Agreement expires following the 2010 season.

Smith said he still wants to know why owners opted to reopen the current labor deal two years early. For the past several months, one of the primary NFLPA talking points has centered on the refusal of the NFL to generally open the books regarding whether and to what extent the franchises are making money.

The question, however, isn’t whether the teams are making money (and we’re told that some of them actually are now operating in the red, and that more will follow if tickets don’t sell in sufficient numbers this season), but whether the teams are making enough money to maintain the value of the franchises and justify the investment of time and capital that has been devoted to these billion-dollar enterprises.

Though the average person might interpret the fact that the Packers generated an operating profit of $20.1 million in the club’s most recent fiscal year as evidence that the Packers are doing well, large businesses have much bigger profit goals than that..

For example, the operating profit of NBC Universal was $539 million for the second quarter of 2009 (we should have asked for more money) -- and that was regarded as bad news (regardless, we should have asked for more money).

So even if the union were able to point to the balance sheets of the NFL teams and argue that they are making money, the real question is whether they’re making enough money to justify the significant value of the organizations -- and the ongoing ownership of the franchises.

At some point, the question becomes whether it makes sense for the owners to cash out and put their money into other ventures that entail a greater return.

Thus, Smith needs to get past the trial lawyer shtick aimed at swaying the uninformed observer who would potentially be in the jury pool if any of this stuff were going to be introduced at a trial, and he needs to begin consulting with experts who can interpret the information already available to the union.

At best, Smith and his colleagues at the NFLPA are playing dumb in order to try to score points in a public-opinion debate that has no real relevance.

At worst, Smith and company aren’t feigning ignorance.