February 27, 2020
Ivan F. Soto
Executive Director AFLPU
Sometimes the best move is No Move.
Facts are Facts. Math is Math. Opinions will vary on their impact on an individual’s unique circumstances around the Globe. However, that doesn’t change the Facts or Math that sometimes No Move is your best move.
As the NFL/NFLPA bargaining continues to be a hot topic of debate on social media many are taking a position on if the terms are good, bad or just “meh”. In giving some thought to where things stand between the Owner and the Players coming to an agreement, I found myself wondering more and more why anything had to be agreed upon or voted on at all? Sometimes the best negotiating move is in fact No Move at all. As presented in “My 2 Cents” piece that was offered not long ago, the Players and Owner have a CBA in place for the next season so agreeing to any deal at this point would seem premature to me unless it really could get at least 2/3rds of the Executive Council to recommend it or 2/3rds of the Membership to agree to it. Otherwise, a vote of just over 51% is a clear sign that the deal terms are not very good for Players and once again the Owners will have outcoached the Players. Considering that the threats of Lockout or Strike have been brewing and are being used tactically to either support or weaken either side’s bargaining position I thought I might provide some food for thought to the current status for consideration.
At this point, an option for the NFLPA is to take the position that they will make No Move with regard to the current offer or a new CBA. The union could offer some bright lines to the league as well as agree to a “no-strike” agreement for the 2021 season. For example, the union could make it known to the league that they intend to hold a limited work stoppage for the pre-season and pre-season games. Limited work stoppages are quite common in other Countries and do have a place in collective bargaining. The union could indicate that they intend to play the 2021 season under the continued terms of the current CBA which is not unusual in many other industries. In fact, unless one side decides to terminate the current CBA according to the terms or process provided in their CBA or under the NLRA the parties can continue to operate under the terms of an expired CBA. Yes, this comes with some unfavorable conditions for both Labor and Management however it allows the “work” to continue while the negotiation also continues. In essence, the Players could agree to work under the expired terms but without a contract. However, it is nearly certain that the Owners would Lockout the Players if there weren’t some assurance that the 2021 regular season would be played without a work stoppage. The Players would need to be clear on the labor actions they intended to take leading up to the 2021 season which could and in my opinion should include not attending OTA’s and a work stoppage of at least 2 of any 2021 Pre-Season games to be sure the limited work stoppage had some effectiveness and value. The Owners would be conceding the limited disruption for the benefit and concession of being provided a “no-strike” clause for the 2021 regular season. Another risk to Players is the owners could implement certain other terms during the continuation of the expired CBA however the Player’s could demand that as a condition of the “no-strike” clause for 2021 that the Owners could not alter ANY of the terms of the expired CBA or they could face a work stoppage during the 2021 regular season.
This is just an outside the box solution to be considered however it is not that unusual to see a bargaining unit and company continue to operate under the terms of an expired CBA. If the Owners elected to not accept this solution it would further validate just how much power and value the Players have when they gain back their right to strike. A lockout is a very difficult scenario as is a work stoppage however in my opinion the greater risk is to the Owners as there are many fewer games or opportunities to earn revenue than other sports that play many more games. Yes, Players risk losing game checks, etc as well as the risk of Father Time which takes his toll on every athlete however it has been proven more than once that even a Veteran with some miles on their wheels can holdout or be suspended for an entire season and then return and have a very productive year or few years. Just look at the cases of Adrian Peterson, Josh Gordon, Tom Brady or Myles Garrett to only name a few that have missed out on multiple games yet have returned to the field. This fact is indisputable, and the math is finite that ANY player that has earned an NFL contract has enormous value to their team and the league regardless of being a rookie, a bit older or having missed games. If a player is on the proverbial “bubble” then yes, there could be some negative consequences for them during a work stoppage or lockout however the risks to their opportunities are already relevant which is why they are currently on the “bubble”. In my experience, if a player can play and can add winning value to a team then they will likely be signed regardless so all of the scare tactics or fear-mongering about lost opportunities for Players if a lockout or work stoppage were to occur is overblown. The reality is that if a Veteran can play and add winning value to a team, there is likely a team that will pay them for their services. That being said there are always casualties on both sides when a lockout or work stoppage takes place.
Sometimes No Move is the best move and in light of the Players having over a year left on their current CBA as their BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement) I am of the opinion that unless the Owners present an off with terms that are “must take” by the Players then the leverage pendulum remains steadfastly on the Players side and will continue to swing in their favor over the next number of months leading up to eventual expiration of the current CBA.
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