The criticism of NFL player compensation, sparked by the latest wave of never-heard-of-him multimillionaires in the NBA, arguably has reached an unprecedented level. And former NFL defensive lineman Terrance Knighton provided a strong case for change via a stream of tweets from Saturday and Sunday.
His message includes various comparisons of specific NFL players who should be making more than specific NBA players. It’s compelling, and many would say it’s accurate.
But the truth continues to be that NBA players get their contracts within the confines of their broader labor deal, and NFL players get their deals within the confines of their broader labor deal. Knighton gets it: “NFL makes billions a year. Time to get back to that negotiation table. And this time we need to stay strong and not budge. Make em Pay!!!”
Which leads us back to the point made last night. To get a better labor deal, NFL players need to be willing to use all of the tools in the labor-deal bag. Which means, ultimately, that NFL players need to be willing to go without football or the cash and fame that flow from it.
Whatever the plan (and the best one would entail replacing the revenue by staging their own football games), there needs to be one now, four years before the expiration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement. The longer the effort to persuade players to stand firm in 2021, the harder it will be to make it happen.
Ultimately, it may be impossible. But unless and until the players convince the owners that the players can and will miss games for up to a full season, then the players will never get the best deal that they possible can.
That doesn’t mean a strike that stretches into the regular season needs to happen. It means that the players need to make the owners believe that strike that stretches into the regular season will happen without a better deal — in the same way the owners made the players believe six years ago, during the lockout.