The deal, which was approved by a margin of 1,019 to 959 will run through the 2030 season and provide a decade of what the NFL calls “labor peace.” More on what this means later . . .
Big Changes Facilitated by this CBA
17-game regular season
You heard right – a 17-game regular season that could start as early as 2021. That means this season we will see extended playoffs. This change has been highly sought by owners and adamantly opposed by most players. While this game will give owners and the NFL an additional week of revenue (think ticket sales, parking, concessions, television deals, and merchandise), it also is an additional week of hard game play, putting players’ bodies at additional risk.
This can be seen as a concession by the owners and the NFL in exchange for the 17-game regular season (although it really isn’t). Instead of four preseason games, each team will play three. This isn’t a fair trade for a 17-game regular season because preseason games are not nearly as intense as playoff games and starters do not play entire games during the preseason. Maybe this is why the new CBA also limits the number of joint practices each team can hold and a cap on other elements of training camp, such as the length of padded and full-speed practices and the number of days in pads.
Players are now guaranteed to receive 48% of the league’s overall revenue and players will have the ability to increase that share to 48.8%. The increase to 48.8% involves a “media kicker” which applies in seasons where the league plays 17 games. Given the league’s overall revenue will increase significantly with an additional week worth of game play, sharing this revenue with players is only fair, especially given that so many players were adamantly opposed to the additional game during the regular season. The previous CBA guaranteed players 47% of revenue. The 1% does not seem like much, but when the league’s overall revenue hits tens of billions, it is a pretty big deal.
Regardless, even with this increase, the NFL remains the only professional league to not give its players a mean of 50% of league revenue – they are, in essence, the entire reason the league and fan base exists, after all. NBA players receive between 49% and 51%, NHL players receive at least 50%, and according to MLB Commissioner Robert Manfred, MLB players receive approximately 50%. Given this is a brand new CBA that will last until 2030, you can guarantee NFL players will receive the smallest percentage of the league’s overall revenue in comparison to their other professional counterparts for at least another decade.
Drug and disciplinary policies
The new CBA will relax rules on testing for marijuana by narrowing the window from four months prior to the start of training camp to only two weeks prior to camp. Further, the new CBA will reduce the number of players who are subject to this testing. Even more important is that the level of THC to indicate a “positive test” is being increased from 35 nanograms of carboxy THC per milliliter of urine to 150 nanograms – an increase of more than 4x! Even if a player does test positive under these relaxed standards, the player will not be suspended for this infraction.
Many disciplinary actions will be taken from the hands of Goodell and placed in the hands of a “neutral decision maker” per the new CBA. I think we all saw this coming . . . cue deflate gate montage.
NFL rosters will now be increased to 55, from the previous CBA’s allotment of 53. Further, two additional players will be able to be active on game days. We will also see larger practice squads and increased compensation for practice-squad players. Practice-squad players will see an increase of $2,500 in their paychecks under these new rules.
New playoff format
Playoff fields will now expand from six teams per conference to seven with only the top seed in each conference earning a bye week. What is concerning here is that now, over 40% of teams will make the playoffs, which dilutes the accomplishment.
Now… back to the beginning. Why is it important that the deal was approved by a margin of 1,019 to 959? Well, this goes to show that if 31 players voted against the new CBA we would be having an entirely different conversation. In my previous article I discussed what it meant to have high profile players adamantly opposing the new CBA and how the owners and the NFL likely swayed the lower-paid players with higher pay and increased pension opportunities. Out of 1,978 players, 48.5% of these players voted against the CBA. Many of this 48.5% was comprised of big name players who spoke out publicly against the proposals. Even worse, over 500 players did not vote. LET ME SAY IT AGAIN LOUDER FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE BACK: the democratic process does not work when the people do not vote. If I were a person in the minority of this vote that is what I would be most angry about. We will never know if this was the true desire of a majority of the players because over 500 people chose not to advocate for themselves and for future players by simply voting. Voter apathy is real, but in this case, the occurrence of such in a vote that determines both a player’s personal career and the future careers of those to come after is shocking.
Does this mean the new CBA will bring a “decade of labor peace?” The hope is that those who voted against the new CBA will realize that the democratic process has spoken and that they must respect each player’s interests and move forward as a united front. The new NFLPA President, J.C. Tretter (a Batavia native!) put it best:
“Our members have spoken and the CBA has been ratified. We pick up a greater share of revenues, make significant gains to minimum salaries and increase our post-career benefits. For players past, this deal reaches back in an unprecedented way to increase positions, benefits and make resources available to them. We understand that not all deals are perfect, and we don’t take the gains we wanted, but couldn’t get, lightly. We now must unite and move forward as a union. The interest and passion on the issues that our members have voiced in the past several weeks needs to continue. Our job is never done and we all must work together as one team to build for a better future.”
Hopefully all players move together in the spirit expressed by the new NFLPA President. However, many players were vocal about their opposition due to an extreme concern for player safety. Now that the new CBA has been approved, we hope these voices remain loud and continue to advocate for player safety. Playing under the new CBA does not preclude players from speaking on the issue of player safety and maybe the voices that are most concerned will grow louder.