So far this offseason, we’ve talked about pandemics, we’ve talked about racial injustice and protests. Now we get to talk about labor strife, because that’s just the next stage in this offseason. The pandemic is still here. the protests are still here. Now the NFL is trying to get its season up and running with those major national discussions in the foreground.
The NFL and NFLPA are in serious and evidently growingly contentious discussions about what it all will look like. A new detail was revealed yesterday, in which, as Mark Maske of The Washington Post reports, the league wants to put 35 percent of player salaries in an escrow account.
“The league’s proposal is based on the possibility that revenue will drop this season due to the novel coronavirus pandemic”, he writes. “The funds withheld would be paid to the players on a timetable determined once any revenue decline for this season is calculated. The NFLPA does not intend to agree to the proposal, according to a person with knowledge of the union’s views”.
A number of players have spoken out about it, including members of the Pittsburgh Steelers, such as Devin Bush and Joe Haden. Agent Drew Rosenhaus also commented, condemning the league’s approach. “This is an absurd ask by the NFL. If anything the players deserve a bonus for playing with the added risk of contracting Covid 19 and potentially passing it on to their families”, he said.
How did the NFLPA react to the NFL’s proposal to escrow 35% of player salaries this season?
NFLPA executive Don Davis told players on a conference call: “Basically, we told them to kick rocks.”
Union’s stance is any escrow deal must be collectively bargained. https://t.co/b3c7ihAOiD
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) July 7, 2020
Them boys tried us with a 35% pay cut😂
— Devin Bush ll (@_Dbush11) July 7, 2020
My feelings on That EXACTLY https://t.co/1jPeiOBGjR
— Joe Haden (@joehaden23) July 8, 2020
Crazy bro. https://t.co/Sp5IAp8Zqe
— Eric Ebron (@Ebron85) July 8, 2020
From the league’s perspective, the decision to place salary in escrow would help recoup some predictable revenue losses from the lack of fan attendance, which could cost the league up to $3 billion. The intention would be to help “smooth over a major reduction in next season’s cap”.
What is not mentioned, of course, is that there will be new television deals in place by then, not to mention a 17th regular season game, which will be a significant new addition in revenue. Even assuming the league suffers a significant loss this season, the 2021 cap is still likely to go up because of these and other factors.
Maske writes that the NFLPA would likely prefer to take the approach of ‘borrowing’ space from future caps rather than having more than a third of players’ salaries inaccessible to them until the NFL gets a handle on the sort of revenue that they have lost.
Economic factors are just one of many issues that the two sides must wrangle with over the course of the next couple of weeks as teams get set to start training camp, which is the first physical aspect of this unique offseason.