MLB Return-To-Play Negotiations Should Be A Warning For NFL As Well

Every major sports league in the country is taking steps toward trying to reopen its doors—except, perhaps, for the MLB, some are beginning to wonder, as league commissioner Rob Manfred reverses positions from last week in now saying that he is no longer confident that a season will be played.

Negotiations between the MLB and the players association have been futile, with the players arguing that the league has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning, essentially presenting the same proposal over and over without meaningful concessions. It reached the point last week in which the union declined to offer a counter-proposal, preferring to settle on an agreement reached in March.

It’s just a disaster for our game, absolutely no question about it”, he said about the stalled negotiations. “It shouldn’t be happening, and it’s important that we find a way to get past it and get the game back on the field for the benefit of our fans”.

The union issued a strong response to Manfred’s comments yesterday. “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told Players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season”, the statement reads.

“Any implication that the Players Association has somehow delayed progress on health and safety protocols is completely false, as Rob has recently acknowledged the parties are ‘very, very close’”, it continues. “This latest thread is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning. This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from Players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign”.

The league has argued that, without fans, players should share part of the burden of lowered revenue, offering only a percentage of prorated pay for whatever amount of games they would end up playing, rather than a full proration. With or without fans, however, the players still do the same amount of work.

Why am I writing about baseball labor disputes, anyway? The reason is simple: we could see disputes between the NFL and the NFLPA as well, down the road. Perhaps not this bad—the MLB was in the worst position of any league when the pandemic hit—but it’s entirely plausible that the NFL will attempt to recoup some financial losses from players in some form or fashion.

The NFL is too big a business to ever threaten its season, of course. This is a separate discussion. But we saw how contentious the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations got in February and March, with the league pulling some stronghanded tactics in the 11th hour, including threatening to pull its final proposal and just play out the season under the final year of the then-current CBA deal.

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