The NFL is the dominant form of sports entertainment in this country in every poll by a two-to-one margin. It is America's passion. This popularity rests in large measure on the fact that there has been uninterrupted play since 1987.
All of the energy of owners and the NFLPA has gone into building the brand of the NFL and creating incredible ancillary revenue streams — NFL Network, Direct TV's Season Ticket, naming rights, overseas play, fantasy football. The strikes and labor hassles which have crippled other sports, driving away fans and retarding their development, is a lesson that the NFL has learned.
I have always maintained that the real battle for the NFL is not labor versus management. It is competition with MLB, the NBA, HBO, Disney World and every other form of discretionary entertainment spending, force feeding fans with an unremitting diet of economics and labor strife is suicidal.
My job in negotiations was to have players sit at press conferences announcing their signing with no controversy — emphasizing their charitable and community programs and hopes to help the team. I was always aware that with a median family income of $50,000, it made no sense to complain publicly about the size of a contract.
The "good old days" of massive economics in the NFL are now. In 1976, Seattle and Tampa Bay entered the league with a purchase price of 16.5 million dollars, in 1995 Carolina and Jacksonville entered with purchase prices of 130 dollars. Today, the average franchise is worth one billion dollars.