It’s already been six years since the last NFL work stoppage. Which means that it’s only four years until, possibly, the next one.
The NFL Players Association wants its players to be ready for it then by saving money now.
“We wound up in a situation where unfortunately [savings] didn’t happen across the league as much as it could have happened,” NFLPA spokesman George Atallah recently told SiriusXM NFL Radio.
It’s not as if the union didn’t try the last time around to get the players ready for a work stoppage.
“In 2009, we were faced with a major sort of signal that the owners were going to try and lock players out,” Atallah said. “We were trying to get as many players prepared as possible. . . We need players of every generation to really help the young guys understand what it takes to go through some labor strife. For the players who went through it in 2011, the union administration and player leadership did everything it could to prepare players across the league. I think it needs to happen again with the same sort of fervor.”
If the players are going to get the best deal possible in 2021, they need even more fervor. Ultimately, players don’t want to miss games and the game checks that go along with missed games.
The NFLPA faces a problem separate and apart from the inherent unwillingness of the Men Who Play The Game to not play the game. As the union commences the process of getting the word out to players, a large percentage of the men who may be asked to hold firm for a lockout or a strike are currently in college or high school. Will young players who haven’t saved money because they haven’t made money give up the opportunity to make their money?
That’s ultimately how the union can properly get players to be willing to stare down ownership in convincing fashion: Find a way to make money during a lockout.
In 2011, there was scattered talk regarding the possibility of staging exhibition games. For 2021, it needs to be more than talk, and it needs to be more than an exhibition. The NFLPA should launch now an effort to organize an alternative league that would fill the void on Sundays and Mondays (and maybe even Thursdays) in the event the NFL decides to shut it down again — or if the players are inclined to strike to get a better deal for themselves.
Even that may not be enough. With players not inclined to boycott voluntary workouts now in order to force the league to make concessions aimed at giving them better terms and conditions of employment, they’ll likely again be unwilling to skip game checks (NFL game checks) in 2021, no matter how much money they’ve saved.