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NFL, MLB Labor Talks Could Be Heading For Chill

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Winter is coming and it behooves us all to get ready. For some, that means stocking up on gloves, toilet paper and snow blowers.

For sports fans, however, that might mean clearing up space on the DVR for as many football and baseball games as it can hold, for there may be a lot fewer of them down the road.

You see, the cold that’s on the horizon is the distinct possibility of labor problems between the NFL, Major League Baseball and their respective player unions.

And by problems, we mean lockouts, shutdowns or that most dreaded of words, a strike.

Now, we do have some time here. The NFL collective bargaining agreement runs through next season, while the baseball deal extends to the end of the 2021 season, so there’s no reason to panic…for now.

But the current signals from both sports might lead one to a slightly heightened sense of concern about where things may lead.

That the NFL and its union might be at loggerheads shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since DeMaurice Smith took over as executive director of the NFLPA 10 years ago, the relationship between the league and the union has grown decidedly less chummy than in previous years.

Two years into Smith’s run, the owners declared a lockout of the players which coincided with the end of the CBA. Smith led the players to renounce the union’s bargaining rights, thus giving them the right to sue the league on antitrust grounds.

The players and the league eventually settled their differences, agreeing on a 10-year CBA, which ends, as mentioned, after next season. The sides have reportedly been meeting to stave off a work stoppage that could shut down the nation’s most popular sport.

The major beef seems to be over the desire of owners to expand the schedule from the current 16 games to as many as 18, which would seem to run counter to the push to make football safer.

The players may use the owners’ request to extract some of their own wishes, but you never know how these things go. Still, there is a year to go, and hope can spring eternal.

That may work in football, but if you got a glance at a Washington Post piece from Sunday detailing the conflicts between baseball and its union, you may not be so hopeful.

The story uses recent remarks from MLB union chief Tony Clark accusing baseball officials of colluding with each other to set prices for the free agent market, almost certainly artificially low.

If that’s the case, and the union can prove it, that could set the stage for the filing of a grievance against baseball and the further degradation of a relationship that has been on the downslope for some time.

Though there has been labor peace since the 1994 strike, which cost the game a World Series for the first time ever, players and the owners have drifted further and further apart in the 25 years in between.

So, while it may not be time to worry yet, maybe you should do a bit more with your Netflix than just chilling.  

And that’s how I see it for this week. You can reach us via email with your questions and comments at Sports at Large at gmail.com. And follow me on Twitter at Sports at Large.

Until next week, for all of us here, I’m Milton Kent. Thanks for listening and enjoy the games.