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The NFL as an economic juggernaut

The Economist has a feature this week on the NFL and the lessons other sports might draw from its success. Most of it is familiar, including the incredible revenue generated by the League. But one observation due to John Vrooman is worth pondering: player wages have grown in the NFL at 9% per year since 1990, compared to 12-16% annual growth in other North American leagues. They've done this without enduring a work stoppage during the period, in contrast to the other three leagues. This difference presumably reflects a relatively weak player's union, stemming in part from the relatively short length of an NFL player's career. Striking now for a pay raise in 3 years make little sense if you won't be around to collect it.

Update: Economist turned diplomat George Shultz makes a similar observation in the WSJ's (free) Weekend Interview: "You show me a union that will never strike, and I'll show you a union that isn't going to get anywhere. You show me a management that will never take a strike, and I'll show you a management that's going to get pushed around."