NBA players could soon lose pay; will that happen to NFL players, too?

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The NBA reportedly may withhold paychecks for players during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. And that will surely make NFL players nervous about their own compensation, if the situation ultimately wipes out pro football games.

But there’s possibly some good news for NFL players. The NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement specifically addresses these situations with a “force majeure” clause. The CBA between the league and the NFL Players Association contains no such provision.

Here’s the relevant language from the NBA’s CBA: “’Force Majeure Event’ shall mean the occurrence of any of the following events or conditions, provided that such event or condition either (i) makes it impossible for the NBA to perform its obligations under this Agreement, or (ii) frustrates the underlying purpose of this Agreement, or (iii) makes it economically impracticable for the NBA to perform its obligations under this Agreement: wars or war-like action (whether actual or threatened and whether conventional or other, including, but not limited to, chemical or biological wars or war-like action); sabotage, terrorism or threats of sabotage or terrorism; explosions; epidemics; weather or natural disasters, including, but not limited to, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, tornados, storms or earthquakes; and any governmental order or action (civil or military); provided, however, that none of the foregoing enumerated events or conditions is within the reasonable control of the NBA or an NBA Team.”

The NBA’s CBA sets forth specific procedures for cutting off payment if a “Force Majeure Event” transpires. It also includes a provision allowing the NBA to terminate the entire agreement within 60 days of the “Force Majeure Event.”

The NFL’s CBA has no similar language. This would support a fairly basic argument that the teams owe the players their money even if there’s no season. Which would result in roughly $200 million per team being paid to players, with no revenue to offset the expense.

The league surely would come up with some sort of argument to justify not paying the players, language of CBA and individual player contract notwithstanding. Too much money would be riding on the outcome to not cobble together the best possible argument and throw it against the wall, hopeful that it would stick.

The mere fact that a fight on this point would entail more than $6 billion in player compensation shows that the NFL would do everything it can to play the games, even if those games happen without fans in attendance.

Of course, games without fans in attendance would in turn create a mess for 2021, since the reduced revenues would cause the salary cap to plummet, forcing most teams to dump player contracts and then re-sign those players (or sign other players) at significantly reduced compensation.

Regardless of how it plays out, the NFL and its players will have a clear mutual interest find a way to play the games. Ideally with paying customers in attendance.

35 responses to “NBA players could soon lose pay; will that happen to NFL players, too?

  1. The players are not immune to feeling the pinch many of us feel right now. This is why you save money and don’t blow it on stupid watches like OBJ does.

  2. The NFL also supposedly offers up standard contract language for deals with individual players. Since the CBA has no force majeure clause, does that mean the individual contract language doesn’t either? And what about the teams? Do any of the teams include their own standard force majeure language in player contracts?

  3. Well, let’s be honest, pro athletes are just about as non-essential as it gets. And they’re almost all rich, as well. On the spectrum of plights, they’re pretty much at the bottom.

  4. With the seriousness of current state of affairs, the NFL season is trending towards life support

  5. For one thing, the NBA is actually missing games right now. The NFL is not. This would not be warranted for quite some time.

  6. Hypothetically speaking, what does cancelling the season altogether do to next year’s salary cap?

  7. I wouldn’t want to put $$$ on the NFL being able to successfully manufacture a force majeure argument without contract language. There’s that old legal standard that says ambiguous contracts are construed against the person drafting it. If the NFL didn’t put in force majeure language–and I can’t think of any major contract I’ve ever seen that doesn’t have it–then I don’t think a judge is likely to be too sympathetic to the League.

  8. I’m not concerned about overpaid millionaires losing their pay. I’m concerned about food service workers, hotel maids and deskclerks, bartenders, barbers and others.

    Let’s put this into proper perspective.

  9. Really? there are people everyday losing their jobs and don’t know how they are going to pay this month’s bills.

  10. NFL player are not paid during the offseason so absolutely nothing is going to happen to them for quite some time.

  11. I doubt the people living paycheck to paycheck who aren’t getting a paycheck right now are going to be concerned that a football player may have to sell his third vacation cottage to get by.

  12. In the meantime,……
    Normal households are wondering if they can keep a roof over their families heads for the foreseeable future and how will I be able to feed my kids.
    That’s Real !!!

  13. So….. I am sure that the 50% of America that lives check to check through no fault of their own is crying a river for those poor souls.

  14. “Which would result in roughly $200 million per team being paid to players, with no revenue to offset the expense.”

    Which would still leave the billionaires………billions to live off of.

  15. Cool. I think it would be great to see QB salaries go down to $5M a year and all the others follow suit down the same percentage. Think the best won’t play for that money? Let’s see. I bet they would. And the owners could drop the prices where you don’t have to spend $100/person or more to go to a game. And I won’t see a ton of beer commercials when I watch it on tv. I could keep going with a list of positives and not have many negatives to salary cap going way down.

  16. Not all is lost….they could get up to 450.00 [exp.Calif] a week for unemployment insurance and live like the rest of us !…of course it wont go to far covering the payment on their 40 million dollar estate.

  17. NBA players live on a fantasy world. If they do lose money I’m sure they will get by, if they can’t then I can’t say that I’ll feel sorry for them.

  18. they are non-essential entertainers…if they are not providing entertainment when scheduled to they should not be paid…

  19. Is there anyone expecting us to cry a river for the multi-millionaire professional athletes, and billionaire owners of professional teams, that might not make millions this year?

  20. Anyone who thinks players will be paid their regular salaries if there is no season, a few bridges into Brooklyn for sale. No one has $200 mil sitting around.

  21. NFL season is still far away and since they’ve almost outlawed practice, training camp isn’t as vital as it used to be. They can also expand rosters for this year so teams have more time to evaluate rookies and such.

    Besides, the NFL can easily delay their season until even January. The season only takes about 5 months. They could start in Jan and be done by May or early June.

  22. Sorry folks, we’re in what’s called a reckoning. Athletes are about to become very familiar with the term “non-essential.”

  23. If professional sports events are still not allowed in September, we’ve all got a much bigger problem than just going without the NFL on Sundays.

  24. Would players even play if this situation continues? What about staying 6 foot apart? Wouldn’t affect Jalen Ramsey at all though.

  25. Still think it was wise of Tampa Bay to raise ticket prices after signing Brady?

    Guess what. Many people don’t have millions of dollars, or even any dollars, to fall back on if the worst happens.

  26. Hey everyone is going to take it in the shorts some way some how. I have so sorrow for nfl or nba or hockey players coughing up some bucks. Blame the Chinese. They created this mess.

  27. Every player gets the league minimum if the season is cancelled…. the salary cap stays the same next year as it is this year & everyones current contract just moves forward 1 year as if the season never happened……with of course all the individual contracts requirements still being in effect as to what they can & cant do while the season is suspended…….
    It would be in the players interest to rehab, train & stay in peak physical form during this down time so that they can be ready for next years off season normal requirements & physicals…..
    If a player commits a crime or does anything to hurt the team or leagues image or SHIELD during this down time then the team/league can enforce its discipline that would reflect on NEXT YEARS contracts & ability to play based on league findings & current CBA GUIDELINES….
    This way players get some security during the down time & Owners dont pay out exorbitant amounts of money while getting no return on investment….. im sure there is more behind the scenes stuff to be worked out, but i see no reason that those all just cant be extended forward 1 year so its as if nothing changed…..

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