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NFL players would be wise not to clam up for TV

Last week, NFLPA President Kevin Mawae suggested that players might boycott network interviews and production meetings in retaliation for the presence of language in broadcasting contracts guaranteeing ongoing payments to the league in the event of a lockout.

The players might want to think carefully about such an approach, given that for most of them their faces and personalities are concealed by a helmet and a uniform.

“The only people who are harmed by this are the players,” NBC Universal Sports and Olympics Chairman Dick Ebersol told Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal last week. “In many cases, this is the way the public gets to know them, whether it is in a pregame show or the shoulder programming.” (For those of you who didn’t notice the NBC Sports logo at the top of the page, we have a partnership with the peacock. We mention that because if we don’t someone with a journalism degree and zero common sense will argue that we should have. Right after he finishes bagging my groceries.)

Meanwhile, CBS, FOX, and NBC won’t be the only potential targets of the PA’s venom. According to SportsBusiness Journal, ESPN recently included identical language in its Monday Night Football contract. Per the report, the ESPN deal already included terms requiring payment in the event of a work stoppage; the ESPN contract was revised to ensure that the same language in recent extensions with CBS, FOX, and NBC, which pushed their deals from 2011 to 2013, appeared in the ESPN contract, which already had a 2013 term.

As to the union’s contention that the NFL specifically beefed up these contracts with lockout insurance, Ebersol confirms that the language has been utilized for years. “I have been around longer than anybody else, and I don’t remember a
deal, certainly all the way back to the early 1980s, that this wasn’t
in,” Ebersol said. “This is not a new development.”

Then again, concepts like reality should never get in the way of an effort by the union to sell the notion that the NFL deliberately has lined up a $5 billion incentive to not play football in 2011.