When the latest potential iteration of the next National Football League/National Football League Players Association collective bargaining agreement was announced, the NFL put out a statement essentially heralding the brilliance of the plan and how it would usher in a new era of milk and honey for all involved.
Following more than ten months of intensive and thorough negotiations, the NFL Players and clubs have jointly developed a comprehensive set of new and revised terms that will transform the future of the game, provide for players – past, present, and future – both on and off the field, and ensure that the NFL’s second century is even better and more exciting for the fans.
The membership voted today to accept the negotiated terms on the principal elements of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The Players Association would also need to vote to approve the same terms for there to be a new agreement.
Since the clubs and players need to have a system in place and know the rules that they will operate under by next week, the membership also approved moving forward under the final year of the 2011 CBA if the players decide not to approve the negotiated terms. Out of respect for the process and our partners at the NFLPA, we will have no further comment at this time.
As often happens, when we only hear one side of the story, we get a biased impression. For those who only heard this point of view, it sounded all well and good.
Then this happened:
Hard no on that proposed CBA.— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) February 21, 2020
This, of course, set off a firestorm of criticism from both sides, as multiple voices tried to shout down J.J. Watt for speaking up before the players had time to fully digest all the nuances of the “new deal.” Ross Tucker, former Washington Redskin and NFL Radio personality (among other things), attempted to summarize:
3 CBA thoughts after talking with a few players:— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) February 24, 2020
1. NFL's statement & subsequent PR push/leaks were a tactical error: Players felt backed into a corner.
2. If no new CBA for 2020 it'll cost a lot of "rank & file" players a lot of $.
3. No love lost for JJ Watt after his tweet
Apparently Tucker didn’t get a large enough sample size:
Leadership! I am with you! Please communicate with your team rep. https://t.co/JucZbwqoa2— Richard Sherman (@RSherman_25) February 21, 2020
The @NBA & @MLB are doing it right.— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) February 26, 2020
Players come first.
ALL @NFL players deserve the same.
WE should not rush the next 10 YEARS for Today’s satisfaction.
I VOTE NO.
It seemed to descend into chaos from there, as different players voiced different opinions based on different factors, points of view, and current contract status. This is to be expected since, as noted, there is a lot more to the new proposed CBA than one can digest quickly.
Geoff Schwartz @ SBNation:
The new CBA will drastically change the structure of an NFL season. The owners have voted for a 17-game schedule, up from 16. The preseason will be cut from four games to three. The NFL is also set to expand the playoffs, going from six playoff teams in each conference to seven, with the second seed losing its first-round bye.
The revenue split between the owners and players would move from 47 to 48.5 percent. For the owners, that pays for the operating costs, plus their profits. For the players, that is salary and benefits, including health care and a 401(k). The benefits while playing are actually generous, and I know they are appreciated by the players.
Here’s a more in-depth look for those with a lot of time on their hands and nothing better to read:
The NFLPA has sent all players a fact sheet that covers the highlights on the current proposal for a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. A lot to go through here.. pic.twitter.com/tzOhyLOmhY— Darren Heitner (@DarrenHeitner) February 21, 2020
Hints abound that a major part of the players’ polarization on the new proposed CBA comes down to guys not making millions worried about a work stoppage and how that will affect their immediate financial future versus guys who have made enough to be set for life trying to make sure the players get the best possible deal no matter what the short-term financial deficiencies may look like.
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, detailed he and his teammates’ issues with the deal on Twitter, which was transcribed here. Rodgers mainly touches on apparent disregard for player safety in the name of making more money,
Like any normal job, when you get a raise, the boss expects more production from you. Get a promotion at the plant? Guess what, you’re now working harder/longer than you were before. That’s just life in America.
However, for guys who are literally crippling themselves forever in order to make a living playing a kids game, safety is - and rightfully so - a major focus they shouldn’t ignore.
Just as the dust seemed to settle, another Houston Texans star, Kenny Stills, stoked the fire once more:
Players, VOTE NO. pic.twitter.com/IxRhWd3hkk— Kenny Stills (@KSTiLLS) March 5, 2020
While to us, the average fan, this can be simplified as just another “millionaires arguing with billionaires” scenario that potentially robs fans of the enjoyment of the game, it’s far deeper than that. When issues like player safety are thrown to the wind in order to squeeze more cash from the goose that laid the golden egg, the fans will suffer too.
More injury depleted teams, more beloved NFL superstars living tragic lives after they leave the game, and even more money siphoned out of the pockets of the very people who support these millionaires and billionaires.
Most NFL games are already out of the monetary reach of the average American family. In 2016, four years ago, it cost $503 for a family of four to attend an NFL game. With additional games on the schedule, odds of seeing all your favorite players when you shell out that $500+ aren't very high due to the ever increasing injuries. It’s no longer a matter of if a player gets hurt, but when.
Whether you see this from the NFL’s (read: owners’) side, the player’s side, or the fan’s side, what eventually comes of this could truly change the way we experience the NFL going forward, both good and bad.
Where do you fall on this? Hope they just get it settled and move on? Want the players to get their fair share and “stick it to the man”? Tired of the rising cost of NFL fandom? Or are you all-in on the winningest team in Houston right now and really don’t care about Bill O’Brien’s circus?