Don’t look now, but labor unrest is just beyond the horizon.
Well, okay, it’s actually about four years off, but tensions are beginning to heat up already, and it is a subject that I have already touched upon a few times already during this offseason. Yesterday, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith warned in an interview with Monday Morning Quarterback that “a strike or a lockout is almost a virtual certainty”.
That is not exactly what anybody is looking to hear. The NFL owners locked out the players during the 2011 season, the last time that the Collective Bargaining Agreement expired, and the next one is set to expire 10 years from that point, so it is not all that far down the road.
According to an ESPN article, that lockout lasted 132 days before the new Collective Bargaining Agreement was finally put in place. You might recall that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the only franchise that did not agree to and sign on to the new CBA, but of course they did not need unanimity to get it through.
While they did manage to work out a 10-year agreement the last time around, that does not mean that all has been well in the interim, as the NFL and NFLPA have traded heated barbs on a number of occasions, typically centering around the suspensions of players.
It happened when the league suspended Tom Brady. It happened when they suspended a number of Saints player for the ‘Bountygate’ incident. Most recently, some ugly words have been exchanged over the six-game suspension of Ezekiel Elliott, with the NFL accusing the NFLPA of slandering the domestic abuse victim in the running back’s case.
Smith himself had some pointed words about the relationship between the two groups, not about any particular situation, but about the general relationship, and he provided these comments in order to color his warning of pending strife on the horizon.
Pointing to their history, he said, “the owners do a deal in 2006 and opt out in 2008. We do a deal in 2011 with no opt-outs because we like the benefits under the current deal and we didn’t want to give the owners an opportunity to opt out and take back the gains that we currently have”.
Yet “all of the mutual benefits that were supposed to happen as a result of the opt-out didn’t happen last time”, he said. “Owners colluded with each other, and we found out they colluded with each other”. You might recall that multiple teams were disciplined for that.
“All of the bad things that went to the players happened, and none of the bad things that went to the owners happened. So we have a new deal where if it doesn’t get fixed, you head into a certain ‘small-a’ Armageddon”.