Good news really travels fast.
The item from the New York Times that painted a rosy picture regarding talks on a new collective bargaining agreement sparked a reaction from the NFL Players Association, aimed at keeping everyone from adopting a posture of acceptance that a new deal will be done — a posture that could result in weakness at the bargaining table.
Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Daily reports that, on Tuesday morning, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith sent an email to all agents containing advice they should give to their clients.
“With a possible work stoppage less than two years away, this is the opportune time to set up a structured and organized savings and budgeting plan with your clients,” Smith wrote to the agents, via Mullen. “I can’t stress enough the importance of having our player members in a sound financial situation should a work stoppage occur. We are advising players to plan for a work stoppage of at least a year in length. We are also encouraging all players to save 50% of their salary and bonuses and to save the entirety of their Performance Based Pay amounts they should earn over the next two regular seasons.”
That will be useful advice for the players who are employed by NFL teams in 2019 and 2020. A large percentage of the 2021 work force, however, remains in college, earning nothing that could be saved for later.
Which makes the fact that the NFL’s free farm system relies on free labor an incidental benefit to the league. New players and young players who haven’t made enough money to save enough money to get through a year without paychecks will be far less inclined to go along with a work stoppage.
Plenty of those players with little or no money and a tremendous desire to simply play football will become prime candidates to accept work as replacement players, if the players muster the will to launch a strike.
That said, Smith’s email hardly means that a potential work stoppage is likely. He needs to ensure that all agents and players remain vigilant regarding a potential work stoppage in order to ensure that the players don’t get steamrolled by owners who definitely will be vigilant regarding a potential work stoppage.
At a minimum, the need for vigilance may eventually compel the NFLPA to do something aimed at countering the perception that talks are going well. If it seems they’re going too well, it means that someone may be getting too good of a deal.