The smart NFL team franchise owners are planning their exit strategies as this post is being written. They are talking to their accountants and lawyers, figuring out ways to avoid losing millions and perhaps billions of dollars before NFL players totally destroy the value of the League and all 32 franchises. The Dallas Cowboys franchise is estimated to be worth $4.8 billion on the high end, and the Buffalo Bills worth $1.6 on the low end.
That's a lot of money at risk. The values of teams have been based primarily upon the revenue stream generated from television advertising more than market size, tickets, hot dogs, souvenirs, winning streaks and goodwill. TV advertisers pay more when audiences are bigger. When attendance and audience size drops, advertising revenue will drop and there won't be enough money to pay the team's debts, those future payments to the players due under multimillion dollar contracts. Eventually, less fans means not enough money to pay the players.
Today these franchise investments are at risk because of the offensive conduct of the NFL players. Players are excelling at offending and turning off fans and audiences. We've see the hip gyrations and crotch grab by such players as former Seattle Seahawk Marshawn Lynch, Seahawk receiver Doug Baldwin pretending to “poop” out a football during Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, and recently Giants receiver Odell Beckham pretending to urinate on the field like a dog. Class acts, all. Now, the players seem hellbent on disrespecting the National Anthem and those who honor our country.
At the same time, some vocal players think they are smarter than owners, coaches and referees. Look at Seahawk Richard Sherman's recent on-field arguing with his coaches and referee. Look at Colin Kaepernick. He wasn't fired by the owner but rather opted out of his long-term contract, thinking he could do better on his own. Oops. More than just deciding to ignore basic football economics and the National Anthem, players will soon elect to ignore coaches and owners. It is just a matter of time before NFL players predictably decide they should be in control of the teams and that they should run the League.
And, this will be the exit strategy of the smart owners looking for a way to unload their diminishing investments. While current owners will bank dwindling revenues now, players will be offered (although they will probably demand) an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) whereby they agree to restructure their future contract payments by instead accepting ownership shares in the team franchise. Historically, some marginally profitable or failing companies have been turned over to union members to own and operate. Invariably, the employees (i.e., players) will elect to take over a floundering business, rather than see it fail entirely and lose their jobs with it. The ESOP promises to pay the player in the future by selling his shares when he retires and then giving him the money. Egomaniacal players can be convinced this is in their best interests.
Don't be fooled by these owners taking a knee with the players "as a sign of unity." The owners are simply buying time to figure out their exit strategy while the franchise is still worth something, though quickly losing value. They may just dump them on the players.