The NFL and NFL Players Association struck a verbal deal regarding a revision to the Collective Bargaining Agreement to reflect safety protocols and economic realities of the pandemic on July 24. So why did it take so long to reduce the agreement to a signed writing, 10 days later?
As NFLPA president and Browns center JC Tretter told PFT by phone on Tuesday evening, the NFL tried to undo certain aspects of the deal that had been negotiated on July 24.
“Especially this weekend but through the whole thing, the NFL wanted to kind of walk back a lot of the really good things we had gotten in the deal,” Tretter said. “And once they realized there were things they didn’t like, they wanted to change that. And we weren’t willing to move off the deal that we signed because we thought we had a really good deal. There were issues on the economics, there were issues on the safety protections that they wanted to make last-minute adjustments to that we just weren’t going to allow to be changed.”
Tretter mentioned that the union had fought to spread the financial losses from 2020 over four years; the league wanted to change that after the deal was done. Tretter also said that the union pushed to ensure that all players would be guaranteed the $350,000 non-refundable payment for higher-risk opt outs, even undrafted players who otherwise would be in danger of not making the team.
NFLPA assistant executive director of external affairs George Atallah confirmed Tretter’s viewpoint, explaining that the league attempted to “relitigate” multiple issues that supposedly had been resolved on July 24.
The NFL did not immediately respond to a request for comment regarding the contention that it attempted to alter terms of the deal that was negotiated on July 24.
Although the players eventually agreed to modify the seven-day window for opting out after signing the deal, Tretter pointed out that players received extra time to make their decision, as a result of the delay. As Tretter explained it, the delay also gave players with health issues that would qualify them for a “higher-risk” opt out (which gives each player $350,000 without an obligation to pay the money back) a chance to ensure that their conditions were properly documented during the physicals taken at the outset of training camp.
As Atallah noted, the haggling that happened after July 24 also gave the union an opportunity to ensure that league and club personnel would be subject to the same discipline as players for engaging in prohibited activities. The NFLPA also was able to ensure that players had appropriate protections and appeal rights if/when players are accused of engaging in high-risk activities. Per Atallah, those protections weren’t present when the deal was informally finalized on July 24.
Tretter and Atallah emphasized that the players were unified throughout the process, and that, as Tretter explained, the protections the players sought during the negotiations were “demands not requests.” Tretter said the players realized the significance of the issues to the players and their families, given the gravity of the public-health crisis.
Tretter and Atallah also expressed confidence that players will take the situation seriously moving forward, doing what they have to do — and not doing what they shouldn’t do — in order to limit the possibility of team or league-wide outbreaks.