INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The immediate future of the NFL remains murky due to the coronavirus pandemic, but labor peace has been ensured for the next decade.
NFL players, nearly 2,000 strong, narrowly voted to approve a new collective bargaining agreement with team owners that guarantees business as usual – with notable changes – through 2030. The vote: 1,019-959. All that was required to approve the deal was ratification by a majority of the voting players.
Owners had approved the new CBA in February, then waited for the players’ vote. Their deadline was 11:59 p.m. Saturday.
Response from the two negotiating sides was swift.
“We are pleased that the players have voted to ratify the new CBA, which will provide substantial benefits to all current and retired players, increase jobs, ensure continued progress on player safety and give our fans more and better football,’’ commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We appreciate the tireless efforts of the members of the Management Council Executive Committee and the NFLPA leadership, both of whom devoted nearly a year to detailed, good faith negotiations to reach the comprehensive, transformative agreement.’’
The NFLPA detailed the “democratic process’’ that resulted in the ratification, and added, “We understand and know that players have been split on this deal, including members of our (Executive Council). Going forward, it is our duty to lead, however we may feel as individuals, to bring our men together and to continue to represent the interests of our entire membership.’’
The high points of the new CBA:
- Expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams – one in each conference — for the 2020 season.
- Allowing the NFL to expand the regular season from 16 games to 17 as early as 2021.
- Higher minimum salaries.
- Expanded rosters and practice squads.
- Improvements to benefits for current and former players.
- Altering the league’s drug and discipline policies, all of which go into effect in 2020.
- Increasing the players’ share of league revenue from 47 percent to 48 percent in 2021 and to at least 48.5 percent in any season during which 17 games are played.
Even though labor peace is guaranteed for the next decade, it’s uncertain how the NFL will handle its immediate business due to the COVID-19 issue. Virtually everything in the sporting world has at least temporarily shut down.
The league new year, along with the start of veteran free agency, is set to begin Wednesday at 4 p.m. “League tampering” is allowed starting Monday at noon. The draft is April 23-25.
It’s conceivable the NFL and NFLPA will agree to push everything back until more clarity on the COVID-19 issue is achieved.
This story will be updated.