Baseball’s current labor struggle is a glimpse into what the NFL could face

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Major League Baseball would like to launch a 2020 season in July, with 82 games and an expanded postseason and above all else the return of sport. The MLB Players Association, however, seems to be prepared to balk at the concept of revenue sharing — given that revenues will be dramatically limited by games played without fans present.

The current negotiations follow last month’s deal, pursuant to which the owners agreed to advance $170 million in salary and the players agreed not to challenge any salaries forfeited during games lost to the pandemic. Even though the Yankees alone have $250 million in salary commitments for 2020, it’s a good deal for the players, given that paragraph 11 of the Uniform Player Contract states that each player’s agreement is subject to “the right of the Commissioner to suspend the operation of this contract during any national emergency during which Major League Baseball is not played.”

So either the players don’t play during the ongoing national emergency and don’t get paid (beyond the $170 million) or they play and get full pay. There’s nothing in the labor deal or the player contract that authorizes the league to pay the players less than full pay, if games are played.

That’s the player’s leverage, and they have every right to use it. The owners, if they had wanted, could have placed terms in the CBA requiring the players to, for example, share revenue in the event that games are played under circumstances (like a pandemic) that reduce the flow of cash into the league’s coffers.

The potential impasse between baseball and its union is relevant to the NFL because, unlike baseball’s standard player contract, the NFL by all appearances has no authority to reduce or withhold player pay if the season doesn’t happen and/or if games are played with no fans present.

Sports-starved fans seem to be poised to align with baseball’s owners on this one, with the players getting the blame as selfish, no-good so-and-so’s unless they agree to play for less than they’re supposed to receive under their labor deal. That same dynamic easily could apply to the NFL, if the NFL Players Association drives a hard bargain in conjunction with any negotiations that may happen regarding potential adjustments to player salaries based on reduced revenue in 2020.

Under the NFL’s labor deal and standard player contract, the players arguably get 100 cents on the dollar, even if there are no games. Obviously, then, NFL players will be able to insist on full pay for games played without fans. The NFLPA also will have to approve of any proposal by the league to get games played, such as the relocation of California teams to other states for the season or, if all else fails, a Bio-Dome approach that would have all teams in Florida or some other central location.

So let’s all be willing to take a step back, if the NFL and the NFLPA end up grappling over the financial terms of the 2020 season, and to be ready to consider who is and isn’t being reasonable, given the pre-negotiated terms. Hopefully, those in the media who are quick to blame the union for negotiating a bad deal when a given term works out in a way that hurts the players will be willing to point a finger at the NFL for failing to negotiate better terms regarding a pandemic or other circumstances that prevent games from being played — and in turn for trying to prop up a bas deal by waging a P.R. battle against players who would simply be saying what the NFL would say if the tables were turned: The deal is the deal, we intend to honor it, and we expect you to honor it, too.

25 responses to “Baseball’s current labor struggle is a glimpse into what the NFL could face

  1. The players will rightfully be pegged as selfish so-and-sos.

    Millions of Americans out of work, and these already-millionaires want full pay for doing no work, or half their contracted work?

    Go ahead, guys, and watch people’s cynicism grow and their support wane.

    I honestly don’t understand why anyone gives any of their money to pro sports these days. All you’re doing is giving away your money to make other people rich, while getting nothing back except a little cheap entertainment.

    If anyone needs to strike, it’s the fans.

  2. The salary cap is going to shrink next year because of the decreased revenues this year. That means players with big contracts are going to have to be cut and accept less elsewhere. If they want to avoid that, they should probably try to work something out where the owners agree to increase the cap for next year in exchange for some concession this year.

  3. I’m not bright enough to understand a lot of this but I do agree with Kevpft. I don’t understand, either, why people support pro sports. I gave up on MLB almost 20 years ago, the NBA about 14 years ago and will soon forget about the NFL.

    How is Dak Prescott worth $35 million while kids go hungry and don’t even have school supplies?

  4. Geez, started reading the sports section of the local rag in the 70’s daily when I was 12. Absolutely love sports and that will never change but the major sports labor BS between the owners and players is stale. I know it’s Billionaires vs Millionaires, employer vs employee, etc. but imo it’s just old.

  5. I dare the NFL guys to demand full payment if games are missed. Double dog dare them. Football fans are mostly blue collar men and women and millions of them are unemployed and struggling to pay rent or mortgage.
    If these entitled millionaires make noise about this and try to leverage contract language to get paid while they are floating in their 1000 sq foot pools instead of playing then it’ll get ugly. Fans won’t like that one bit.
    If they wanted to win over fans they should come together and donate a percentage of their pay to unemployed team employees. That would really win over hearts and minds and change the perception of these greedy kids.

  6. It’s hard for me to picture a scenario where they manage to play a season and still have the owners make a profit. I think that if there was somehow going to be an NFL lockout or strike, the owners will actually save money, and the players will lose everything. Please, for the sake of the players and their families, don’t have a stoppage.

  7. I’ll answer my own question. There’s not going to be team contact sports in 2020.

  8. This will go over well with people who have lost their jobs and can’t pay their rent. You know what? Don’t play….. I don’t know about everyone else, but I have gotten along without sports just fine. Nicer weather is here and most states are beginning to reopen. Last thing I am going to do with my time is watch a bunch of greedy millionaires play games.

  9. It should be very simple. Proportional schedule for proportional pay. Accept it or get locked out, and use AAA players.

  10. Players can’t have it both ways. If they want to be “partners” with the owners through revenue-sharing then they accept the downside risk of revenue dropping. Someone still has to make the “mortgage payment” on the stadiums. Being an owner has a huge capital investment, and in times like these it shines a light on the risks associated with being an owner.

  11. harshedmellow says:
    May 12, 2020 at 8:53 pm
    Riddle me this: a player or coach gets sick with covid19. Now what?


    Isolate that player, test the team and anyone else, staff or opponent played and go from there, take whatever steps necessary to keep other players and staff as safe as possible. You ask that question like there’s no answer or it’s impossibly complicated …. there’s your answer.

  12. harshedmellow says:
    May 12, 2020 at 8:53 pm
    Riddle me this: a player or coach gets sick with covid19. Now what?

    Probably nothing. Players are young and healthy and people in that category often don’t even have symptoms. They will likely go home for 2 weeks and then come back.

  13. kevpft says:

    The players will rightfully be pegged as selfish so-and-sos.

    That describes unions. Every union pushes for the highest pay with the least amount of work.

  14. Baseball contract / playing doesn’t effect me. Couldn’t care less. I was one of the people who said if they went on strike in 1994 and didn’t play the World Series, that I would never watch another game. I haven’t watched one on TV since. I used to watch 2-3 games a week and attend 5-10 per year. I have gone to a handful of games at places like Wrigley, Fenway, Yankee Stadium and CitiField when I was in town and friends wanted to go. Players & Owners, be aware there are people who say they won’t come back and mean it.

  15. kevpft says:
    May 12, 2020 at 8:03 pm
    I honestly don’t understand why anyone gives any of their money to pro sports these days. All you’re doing is giving away your money to make other people rich, while getting nothing back except a little cheap entertainment.


    Isn’t that true of basically anything? If you go to a movie, you’re giving your money to already wealthy actors for a little cheap entertainment. If you buy a book, you’re giving it away to an author, if you watch television, you’re likely doing so by paying a grossly overpriced cable provider or internet provider, etc.

    I see a lot of people saying that they’re not going to watch “greedy millionaires play games.” The same people, however, have no problem paying for movies, buying books, or paying their cable bills.

    The problem with a lot of people is that they see the NFL, NBA, MLB, etc, as a game or as entertainment. The people involved, owners, coaches, players, etc, look at it as work. If you’re going into your company and you’re a talented employee, aren’t you going to try to get as much as you can, while you can?

    Don’t get me wrong, I miss the days of $10 tickets, $5 parking, and $2.50 cokes, but it’s business.

  16. if I was a billionaire and owned a baseball team or a football team and the players would not agree to taking a reduced salary matching the reduced revenues that I would rather there be no season.
    I would rather get zero revenue and the players get 0 revenue. The MLB players have no leverage, they already gets a share split. If they want more than just don’t have a season. See what the majority of the lower paid players think of that.

  17. I’m in favor of the players doing everything they can to squeeze every dollar out of their owners. If not it’s just more money in the owners’ pockets and the players deserve it more.

  18. Let the players go work for minimum wage at Walmart 40 hours a week for 50 weeks a year. Lets see how long they survive. They work 20 weeks a year and rake in millions. Sorry, don’t feel 1 bit of sympathy for them.

  19. Players are trying to max out their money. You can’t blame them on that front.

    They feel its a lowball offer so they go back to the table. If it was up to the common people all athletes would accept $50k or else they are greedy

  20. “It’s hard for me to picture a scenario where they manage to play a season and still have the owners make a profit.”

    As long as they actually have games to televise they’re basically guaranteed a profit. Ticket sales are a tiny percentage of profits compared to TV. It’s been that way for decades now.

  21. These billionaire owners are the greedy ones, risking the health and careers of their players by having a season at all. Players should not agree to give up a penny, they negotiated their contracts fair and square.

  22. Sounds like the NFL brain trust screwed up and never conceived of the possibility that a season could be abbreviated or cancelled.

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