Revenues in the NFL exceeded $5 billion for the first time in history and the NFLPA negotiated increases in benefits and pensions for its former players in three successive collective bargaining agreements. The NFL opted out early from the 2006 collective bargaining agreement in May of 2008.

NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw, who led the organization for 25 years died in August of 2008. In March of 2009, the NFLPA Board of Player Reps elected DeMaurice Smith as its new Executive Director.

Since 1993, the CBA has been extended five times: 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2006. For the first time ever the 1993 CBA retroactively improved pensions for players already retired, and each extension of that agreement has increased in salaries and benefits for past, present and future Players.

May 2008: Following five extensions of the 1993 CBA, owners decide to opt out, resulting in no salary cap for the 2010 season.

August 2008: Gene Upshaw passes away after serving 25 years as NFLPA executive director. NFLPA General Counsel Richard Berthelsen is named interim executive director.

March 2009: The players unanimously elect DeMaurice Smith as the union’s new executive director.

March 12, 2011: Eighteen years of labor peace end with Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing a lockout of the players. Players are banned from using team facilities and contacting team coaches.

March 2011: The NFLPA once again de-certifies as a union and files an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL. Tom Brady and Drew Brees serve as two of the lead plaintiffs.

July 2011: A settlement is reached in Brady v. NFL, ending the 132-day lockout and leading the NFLPA to reform as a union so that CBA negotiations can begin.

August 4, 2011: A 10-year CBA is signed. By refusing to compromise on player health and safety, this agreement advances rights by:

  • Reducing the number of offseason practices, ending training camp two-a-days and limiting contact practices during the season;
  • Increasing player benefits by $1 million;
  • Forming The Trust to help players better transition into life after football through career, nutritional, entrepreneurial and continuing education services;
  • Creating a Legacy Benefit that pays $620 million to former players, with owners contributing to the pot for the first time;
  • Raising minimum player salaries as well as salary guarantees for players suffering career-ending injuries;
  • Implementing guaranteed minimum cash spends for the league and individual teams. This formula ensures that, as owners make more money, players will, too.

March 15, 2020:

The current, 11-year collective bargaining agreement was approved by majority vote of our player membership. The new deal paved the way for:

  • More Money:
    • Player revenue share rises to 48%, with a potential boost to 48.8% based on revenue from upcoming TV deal negotiations
    • Increase of minimum player salaries by 20%, with annual incremental boosts based on career length
    • Teams who earn first-round playoff byes now receive postseason pay for that week
  • More Jobs:
    • Expansion of gameday rosters from 46 to 48
    • Practice-squad salaries and roster sizes rise to $11,500 and 14, respectively, by 2022
  • More Rights:
    • Elimination of suspensions for positive marijuana tests
    • Neutral arbitration for most discipline cases, including personal conduct policy
    • Significant reduction in club fines and on-field player fines
  • More Rest:
    • Padded practices reduced from 28 to 16 during training camp
    • Five-day acclimation period at the start of training camp

July 2020:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFLPA returns to the negotiating table with the NFL to create CBA amendments that proved key to the completion of the 2020 NFL season.

  • Daily testing of all players and club personnel at team facilities
  • Elimination of preseason games
  • Stipend payment and contract tolling for high-risk and voluntary player opt-outs
  • 20-day ramp-up period for training camp
  • Expected revenue loss to be spread out over four seasons, with salary cap floor set at $175 million for 2021, minimizing need for massive player cuts and contract slashing.

More than 60 years later, thanks to the sacrifice of players past and present, you are more than just employees; you are partners in the most popular and highest revenue-generating sport in America.