Why do players need a union and what does it actually do?

What is the NFLPA?

  • The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) is the union for professional football players in the National Football League.

Why do professional football players need a union?

  • The union allows players to stand together to protect their health, rights, and families.
  • The union was formed in 1956. Players used their combined strength to force owners to provide basics like clean uniforms and safer equipment.
  • Our job is to represent players’ interests during negotiations for the next CBA and to make sure players are well informed and prepared for them.
  • In 2011, we negotiated a landmark Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) after an 18-week lockout by the owners.
  • In March 2020, we negotiated the current CBA, which runs through the 2030 season.
  • The current CBA brought new gains to our members, including an increased share in revenue, expanded roster sizes, a sizable bump in minimum salaries, health & safety advances, rookie contract bonuses, and more.

What does the union do?


  • Represents all players in matters concerning wages, hours and working conditions and protects their rights as professional football players
  • Makes sure that the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) are met
  • Negotiates and monitors retirement and insurance benefits
  • Provides other member services and activities
  • Provides assistance to charitable and community organizations
  • Enhances and defends the image of players and their profession on and off the field

How does the union work?

  • The NFLPA works from the bottom-up. All power and authority to do anything in the NFLPA comes from the Board of Reps who are elected by the player members.
  • Player Members on each NFL team elect both a Player Representative and three Co-Alternate Player Representatives to serve on the Board of Player Representatives (The Board of Player Reps).
  • The Board of Player Reps meets at least once a year and makes all of the important decisions for the organization.

Want to know more?

  • Explore Our History of Wins to learn how we’ve been fighting for player rights since 1956.
  • Browse Player Marketing Solutions to find out how we’re protecting group licensing rights and generating income for every NFL player through our marketing and licensing arm Players, Inc.