At this point in the NFL’s rocky recent history, it’s probably easier to list the things upon which the players and owners agree than the things that are driving them apart. But here goes:
The players and owners probably agree it’s a good thing that fans and TV networks continue to shell out a lot of money in exchange for the NFL product.
That’s it. That’s the list.
As for the points of contention . . . do you have an hour or two? There’s the players’ desire for true freedom of expression on the field. And a greater share of NFL revenue. And they hate the franchise tag. And they want guaranteed contracts. And probably less mandatory practice time. And better health insurance and pensions. And better protection from head injuries. And an easier path to free agency. And for marijuana to be legalized for the purposes of pain relief in the NFL, as it’s been in many places around the country. And they hate Thursday games.
The owners, meanwhile, pretty much have shown their opposition to all of that. Oh, and an 18-game schedule would be nice, too.
All of this, plus a bunch of stuff I’m probably forgetting, will be on the table when the league’s collective bargaining agreement expires after the 2020 season. And to hear San Francisco 49ers cornerback Richard Sherman say it, very little of that will get resolved before drastic action is taken, namely a repeat of the lockout that threatened to scuttle things the last time the CBA came up, before the 2011 season.
“It’s going to happen, so it’s not like guys are guessing,” Sherman said Thursday, per the Associated Press.
Sherman, recently elected the 49ers’ player representative, predicted that the players are prepared to stand firm when the next round of labor negotiations begins. He’s expecting a lockout “because there was a lockout before. We don’t plan on changing anything about the deal we currently have right now. . . . I don’t think it’s going to be negotiated before the end of the CBA.”
Sherman hardly is alone here. Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley predicted the same thing in July, saying, “you definitely always have to be prepared for certain situations.” The union has been preparing for a lockout even longer, voting in March 2017 to begin withholding money, due under the NFLPA’s Group Licensing Agreement, from each player’s paycheck. GLA money comes to the players in exchange for their likenesses being used in video games and trading cards. If a new CBA gets hammered out without a work stoppage, the money will be released back to them. If it doesn’t, that money becomes a rainy-day fund.
As for the fans, they should begin steeling themselves now for months of stories about labor issues, some of them highly arcane, and perhaps an extended time without professional football.
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