NFL franchises are going to have a much tougher time providing media coverage on their websites if a work stoppage begins later this week.
A source told FOXSports.com that the league will hold a Monday afternoon conference call with all 32 team Internet staffs to discuss how to proceed if the NFL and NFL Players Association don’t reach agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement by the Thursday night expiration date.
One team already is planning to pull player photographs. Another expects that player interviews and quotes will be barred from team websites because of what will likely be a lockout by team owners and player-approved decertification of the NFLPA as a counter measure.
Besides limiting the type of content an NFL team Internet site can provide, the rules could trickle down to April’s draft, where a college prospect would become off limits once he is selected.
A source said there is concern that operating the websites as normal could result in NFLPA legal claims that the league is wrongly using player images to market the team and ticket sales during a work stoppage.
The NFL and NFLPA didn’t immediately return an e-mail request seeking comment.
The NFL already plans to implement similar "no contact" rules between coaches/team staffs and players in the event of a lockout. Sports Illustrated’s website reported Monday that the St. Louis Rams were prohibited from starting the implementation of its offense under new coordinator Josh McDaniels in February. The league said such a move during the traditional "dead period" from offseason work might be construed as a CBA violation and lead to NFLPA legal action.
The NFL and NFLPA are set to meet with a federal mediator Tuesday in Washington D.C. in hopes of making progress toward avoiding the league’s first work stoppage since 1987. NFL owners are expected to vote Wednesday or Thursday on whether a lockout (or the like) will be instituted.
NFL executive and lead negotiator Jeff Pash has said the cancellation of an entire offseason and preseason would result in a $1 billion loss of revenue. A drop in Internet traffic and advertising revenue for team websites under those circumstances is possible because of restrictions on editorial content.
The Dallas Cowboys have the most-viewed team website. According to the Dallas Morning News, the Cowboys generated 290 million page views in 2009 and attracted 30 million unique viewers. Those numbers were expected to rise during the 2010 season.