The negotiations toward the next Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFLPA over the course of the past year have been routinely characterized as far less acrimonious than last time. Perhaps that’s true, but depending upon whom you ask, I don’t think it’s because the league is being any more conciliatory.
According to the latest reports, the NFL seems as though it’s willing to live or die with its demands that the players accept a 17-game schedule. According to ESPN earlier this week, the league’s self-imposed window is closing, and, bafflingly, they “are prepared to table their proposal and play out the last year of the deal”.
This strikes me as bad-faith negotiations and stronghanded tactics with the top end of the hierarchy punching down at the bottom. They are demanding that their employees work more without giving them the option to decline it, essentially, except by choosing not to work.
According to the report, player representatives for all 32 teams were pretty livid over the proposal and were unanimous against at 17-game season, but over the course of a six-hour meeting held last week, many of them gradually were talked into a more defeatist view of the situation, which is perhaps, it’s either this or nothing.
Now, the league won’t get its 17th game cheaply. They will have to give up major concessions to force their workers to work more. As a source quoted in the article says they are deciding on the option to “accept the one thing they hate, a 17-game season, in exchange for 10 or more things they want”.
That likely includes several things the league is willing to or even eager to step back from, like enforcement of its drug policy, scaling back its stronghanded approach against its players’ use of marijuana.
The NFLPA representatives are scheduled to meet again this week to further discuss the situation, following last week’s frustrations. Player agents were involved in those meetings in order to help them understand the ramifications of rejecting the league’s offer, if they table negotiations and set up the framework for a lockout or work stoppage in 2021.
No matter what happens, there will be football in 2020, as it is the final year of the current CBA. But if the players don’t agree to a 17-game schedule, they could be entering a game of chicken with the owners to see if they’re really bluffing. Would they risk the bad press of a lockout and even games missed in order to get their extra game?