NFLPA has leverage on the financial side of the pandemic negotiations

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The ongoing negotiations between the NFL and NFL Players Association regarding pandemic protocols could result in an impasse, with the league implementing its preferred rules and the union challenging the rules via an expedited grievance. Or the talks could result in a compromise.

The NFLPA’s leverage in these discussions comes from the financial side of the equation. It’s the league, not the NFLPA, that currently is looking for an adjustment to the status quo, because the status quo significantly favors the players.

It’s a topic we’ve mentioned multiple times. The Collective Bargaining Agreement, ratified by the union after the pandemic began, contains no force majeure clause. More specifically, it has no provision that allows the NFL to reduce 2020 player pay in the event of canceled games or a significant revenue drop arising from, for example, a pandemic.

Among league and union personnel alike, it has become accepted that, if the NFL plays just one week of games, the players become automatically entitled to 100 percent of their pay. The only argument that would support not paying players their base salaries comes from the Standard Player Contract, which can be interpreted to mean that no obligation to pay salary arises until at least one game is played. In other words, if the entire season is scrapped, the obligation to pay salary to players becomes scrapped, too.

The league’s only protection in the CBA, as acknowledged in April by NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith, appears at page 82: “If one or more weeks of any NFL season are cancelled or [All Revenue] for any League Year substantially decreases, in either case due to a terrorist or military action, natural disaster, or similar event, the parties shall engage in good faith negotiations to adjust the provisions of this Agreement with respect to the projection of [All Revenue] and the Salary Cap for the following League Year so that [All Revenue] for the following League Year is projected in a fair manner consistent with the changed revenue projection caused by such action.”

This provision means that the cancellation of games or a significant revenue drop due to the pandemic requires the league and the union to engage in “good faith negotiations” regarding the impact of the lost revenue on the 2021 cap. Of course, they do that anyway; every year, the cap is the product of NFL and NFLPA discussions on what it should be.

All of this means is that, as to the financial side of the current dialogue, the players have the power to cross their arms and say, “We have a deal in place that applies to this situation.” The current deal means that, unless there’s no season, the players get full pay and, come 2021, the two sides will figure out what the cap will be.

The simple answer is that the cap will drop significantly based on the money lost this year. But does anyone truly think teams want that to happen? They need to field competitive teams, and they won’t want to shed key players. The NFLPA has proposed smoothing the losses over the next nine years; that’s what the NFL should want, too.

And here’s the key: The union’s willingness to do anything other than what the current CBA calls for gives the union leverage to get what it wants when it comes to the safety procedures for pro football in a pandemic. Here’s hoping that the interplay between the safety side of the talks and the financial side will allow all issues to get resolved as soon as possible, so that management and labor can pivot arm in arm toward the far greater challenge, given the current state of the outbreak, to make the 2020 season work.

20 responses to “NFLPA has leverage on the financial side of the pandemic negotiations

  1. Billionaires arguing with millionaires.
    The ones who’ll lose the most are the little guys.
    As always.

  2. I read another story about the players demands and they bordered on ridiculous. One is they don’t want a reduction in next year’s cap. The owners may realize their best option is to cancel the season. They won’t want to pay full salaries if they believe the season will be cancelled at some point. Can you blame them? It has nothing to do with how rich they are. It has to do with making a good business decision. They would lose less if they just cancelled.

  3. Ready for more negotiations through the press?
    You would think the NFL and nflpa would have seen the mess between mlb and the mlbpa Judy went through.

  4. I don’t know that teams will shed top players. They’ll shed their salaries that were based on an expected financial outcome (continued growth) that did not arise (a massive drop in revenue). The players will either play for reduced salaries or work somewhere else. Simple.

  5. The nfl will say take the deal we offer or will cancel the season cause they will never pay full salaries in the event the season is cut short due to the pandemic.

  6. Both sides have leverage. The key is being reasonable partners.

    Players could push for full pay no matter what this season.
    Owners could greatly reduce the cap next season, even with good faith negotiations.

    Better to figure it out together than go the MLB/MLBPA route.

  7. This right here is why I dont understand the constant talk here that a player should go for a % of the cap.

  8. Force majeuere in a contract is worth less than the ink used to sign it. Even if it was in there the players win. Any judge,arbitrator, etc would immediately chuck that argument out. Why do you think credit card companies no longer require signatures?

  9. If money is a leverage point in health-related negotiations, you frankly make me wonder how seriously you REALLY take either one.

  10. If these guys were real partners as they repeatedly try and call themselves then they would willingly take decreased pay just like every other American. File unemployment like we all had to.
    The problem is these guys are wildly selfish and only out for themselves and the “partners” conversation is only to sway public opinion and is used as leverage.
    I’m pulling for the league on this one.

  11. It’s unfair for the players to reduce their salaries and it’s unfair for the owners to lose money
    The only solution is to cancel the season and start over in 2021 with the same cap as this year.

  12. “The simple answer is that the cap will drop significantly based on the money lost this year. But does anyone truly think teams want that to happen? They need to field competitive teams, and they won’t want to shed key players.”


    Teams WILL ALWAYS play the long game. If they need to cut “key” players to fit under the cap next year and send a message to the union, they’ll do it in a heartbeat.

    The NFLPA has NO leverage. EVER.

  13. And the NFL has the ultimate leverage. They can cancel the season altogether. The owners can survive a year with no NFL. The players, between the marginal ones whose career expectancy is nil, and the knuckleheads who make millions but don’t save a dime, can’t.

  14. I said this two months ago….the NFL should not have scheduled any games. A plain reading of the contract is that players are due pay for “cancelled” games. You can’t technically cancel a game that’s never been scheduled in the first place. NFL should have “postponed” the 2020/21 season until a later date. If that date was in April of 2021, they could have played an 8 game schedule, taken three months off and played a 16 game 2021 schedule starting in September of 2021. I guess the NFL lawyers are not very smart or creative.

  15. The key issue is whether the TV networks have to pay the NFL even if the season is cancelled. If so, the owners will simply cancel the season and not pay the players for a huge windfall. If the TV networks don’t have to pay if there’s no season, then the players have all the leverage and the NFL will have to cave.

  16. If the NFL does not play this year and the players want paid this will be tied up in litigation for decades. “Or similar event” on page 82 is going to be the only out the owners have because that paints with a really large legal brush.

  17. I was stubbornly holding out hope we’d have some form of football this fall. Even pandemic football I’d watch. Give me something to feel close to normal.

    Given the pandemic is already surging and it isn’t even flu season yet and the NFL and NFLPA have too much on the table, I’m beginning to accept the signs that it won’t happen.

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