As the NFL and NFL Players Association work toward a resolution of all outstanding issues regarding training camp, the preseason (if there is one), and the regular season (hopefully, there is one), one of the lingering issues relates to the question of whether players will have the ability to opt out of the 2020 season, with no penalty beyond forfeited base salary for the coming season.
NFLPA Vice President Sam Acho, appearing recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio, said that the league currently opposes opt outs of any kind.
“The league is very hesitant to have any player opt out,” Acho said. “Their position is if the player doesn’t want to go to training camp, well that’s their decision. Obviously, fines could take player and you could lose your starting spot, all those things could take place.”
Acho said the players want to have that choice, pointing to other sports that are allowing it.
“The NFL as a league is trying to keep that from happening,” Acho said.
The league isn’t commenting publicly on the opt-out situation, or any other issue relating to the negotiations related to pandemic protocols.
Opt outs present a complicated question, given that some players who aren’t happy with their contracts may be willing to threaten to sit out due to concerns over the pandemic, but who could be persuaded to roll the dice if they get a better deal. Also, the procedure for opting out needs to be clarified. Must a decision be made before training camp? Or can players pull the rip cord whenever they feel sufficiently uncomfortable about continuing, for any reason.
Then there’s the question of whether the player needs an objective reason for opting out, like enhanced risk factors or a family member who has enhanced risk factors.
However it works out, it’s something the league and the union need to work out. The end result could be that players will be able to walk away, if they’re not comfortable playing in a pandemic.
Frankly, the league should want that. Football is sufficiently demanding from a physical, mental, and emotional standpoint without worrying about the virus. If a player chooses to take a year off and to forfeit his pay, he should be allowed to do so.