Pour one out for sports everywhere, but before that, toast the NFL Players Association, which reached a labor agreement with the NFL on Sunday.
This comes after an extremely entertaining 2019-20 season where fans saw a major shift toward younger faces leading a league in which veteran talent had rightfully dominated in the years prior. The final vote tallied 1,019 to 959, with the majority approval of the 2020 collective bargaining deal, where the season will stretch to 17 games.
A shorter preseason starting early next fall will also go into effect. Rosters will expand from 53 to 55, and the playoffs will add two more teams, one from each conference, to battle for immortality courtesy of Sir Lombardi.
It’s no surprise the NFL asked for these changes. More games in the regular season and more teams in the playoffs come January effectively produces more revenue and adds intensity to a game that’s hot-blooded the moment the coin is tossed.
The players also get something out of this deal. Although they have to play more games starting in 2021, players will receive a higher portion of league revenue — specifically 48%, a one-percent jump from this season.
With the expansion, the NFL expects $150 million in postseason revenue. Seventy-two million of that will go to the players, which is a two-million dollar increase from the 2020 playoffs.
Although this doesn’t seem like much of an increase, this number is likely to go up. With more teams broadcasted, more fans at home will be invested in viewing the new playoff format. This is also why NFL players added the constituent that if the NFL’s television revenue surpasses 60%, then 48% goes to 48.5%. Should the 60% double to 120%, then the players’ revenue gets an extra .3 percent tacked on to it, concluding at 48.8%.
Players will also receive rights to 70% of the exceeding revenue of the Los Angeles stadium project, conducted by the NFL in any year applied. This also includes legal gambling done in stadiums, whether on football or on any other sport.
The money gained in this collective bargaining agreement is probably the biggest takeaway from the deal and will help ensure players’ financial futures after their time in the league is over.
If one thing is certain in the NFL currently, it’s the uncertainty of one’s physical and mental health. On this note, the NFL and its players did better.
The real eyebrow-raiser is the new drug policy initiated by the league.
Starting this season, players will be tested for marijuana in a two-week span during training camp prior to preseason. This succeeds the four-month period that busted many during its time including wide receiver Josh Gordon.
Fewer players will also be tested and the elimination of penalties, including suspensions for testing positive for THC, will go into effect starting next season. This is another bonus for players who choose to use marijuana.
So what are the players losing?
For starters, possibly their peace of mind. Earlier I mentioned that playing in the NFL has its moments of complete uncertainty. This new deal ensures more financial stability, yes, but mental and physical stability is a different question.
The players voted 1,019-959, and that difference of 60 means a lot in the grand scheme of things. Whether or not younger or older players voted for it is irrelevant now.
What’s clear is that the majority of players are willing to put their minds and bodies on the line for a paycheck and personal freedom.
It’s no one’s place to tell these players they made the wrong decisions. In reality, it’s feasible that the players actually won this agreement — with more money, rights and more of a say.
I’m willing to bet, however, that the 959 who voted no were primarily thinking about the toll an extra season game has and the increased effort exerted if that extra playoff team wants to make it to the Super Bowl in February.
There is no doubt those extra games will ruin a player’s season via injury. If that happens, will the question in 2030, when the next deal can be made, be more money again? In turn, will the NFL ask for another game in the season or playoffs?
Sure the players are celebrating now, but will they be week 17? That’s one more game coming off one’s contract — a deal that can end abruptly. But that’s a risk, apparently, 1,019 players are willing to take.
Only time will tell if this CBA, or collective bargaining agreement, will pose well for players or owners.
Lucas Perkins-Brown covers lacrosse. Contact him at [email protected].