The Story Behind #WeWantToPlay
NFL training camps are finally here and chances are, you have read more about side-letter agreements, IDER plans and testing protocols than you have about actual football. But without those things finalized, there would be no football to talk about.
During the past four months, your Executive Committee, Board of Player Reps and NFLPA staff have been hard at work, developing and fighting for protections for all players. If we are going to complete training camps -- and more importantly, a full NFL season -- we need everyone involved in the game of football to: 1.) accept that football is going to be different this year and 2.) be equally committed to upholding the safety protocols.
The negotiations of the past several months demonstrate what a strong, cohesive union can accomplish. Each win stemmed directly from our ability to stand together and not back down from our demands, earning us protections on health and safety, contracts and macro-economic issues.
Collective bargaining sessions with the NFL began in June, and initially, discussions were centered around health and safety protocols. Our position was simple: if we could not agree on comprehensive and science-backed protocols to significantly reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19, there would be nothing else to bargain over.
Our top priorities, from a health and safety perspective, were:
- A training camp acclimation period to prevent an increase in injuries that has historically presented itself when players return from a longer-than-normal period away from football;
- No preseason games. The benefit of hosting preseason games did not outweigh the risk of having to postpone the regular season in the event of an outbreak;
- Daily testing early in training camp as well as a strong testing program throughout the season to prevent a team outbreak without forcing players to isolate from their families for 6+ months;
- NFLPA oversight of team facilities and having final approval of club IDER plans, including the ability to inspect and shut down facilities that do not comply with those plans.
Our players came out in force to show the NFL that these protections were not requests; they were prerequisites for playing football in 2020. More than 400 players participated in the #WeWantToPlay Twitter storm that resulted in immediate concessions of no preseason games and daily testing.
Ultimately, the deal that our Board of Reps agreed to met our desire for an extended ramp-up and acclimation period during training camp, decreased padded practices and added controls over duration of practice, just as our medical experts recommended.
This gave us a strong basis to begin discussions over economics. The NFL’s starting offer was a 35% escrow deal. Simply put, an escrow deal would’ve forced 2020 players to take the full financial hit while also taking on the full personal risk.
We wanted to take advantage of our long-term CBA and spread revenue losses over multiple years so that no single group of players would have to bear the total brunt of decreased revenue from this season. We landed on a four-year spread of the losses, a 2021 cap floor of $175M to protect players and prevent a crash of next season’s cap, full compensation for every game played in 2020 and stipends for all players in the event that games are cancelled.
The third major pillar of the negotiations combined both safety and economic concerns for individual players. We looked at ways to answer the question every player asks: “How is this going to impact me?”
We successfully negotiated COVID-19 as a Football Injury designation so that players will not be financially penalized if they contract the virus once they are at work. We also created a high-risk medical opt-out and a voluntary opt-out so that each player can make the best decision as to whether they want to take on the added risks of playing during a pandemic. These meaningful gains give players the power to make the right decision for themselves and their families.
There are still many hurdles left before we can start our season on September 10th, but I am encouraged by how our players stuck together during these past several months, especially given all the uncertainty. Players were engaged at every step of the process, from the weekly Board of Reps calls to the twice-weekly all-player calls.
The wins that the NFLPA secured in these negotiations are evidence of how impactful an engaged, educated and unified player membership can be. Our solidarity in fighting for the right solution is what is allowing football to start. That same commitment is necessary for us to complete a full season and crown a Super Bowl champion.
FORMER PLAYERS CORNER
By special guest author Nolan Harrison, Senior Director of the NFLPA’s Former Player Services Department
During this continued time of uncertainty, the Former Player Services Department is continuing to reach out to and connect with our former player population while providing emergency assistance through the PAF. Our members are updating their information on NFLPA.com on a daily basis and we’ve received extremely positive feedback about the new look and feel of the website, particularly the new digital NFLPA membership card.
Through the Former Player app, our social media platforms, and our weekly newsletter, we continue to provide resources and opportunities to our members. Additionally, we are assisting and encouraging our NFLPA chapter presidents to reach out to their local chapter members virtually on a consistent basis. This has actually helped some of our “more senior” Former Player leaders to develop their technological skills, while also allowing them to stay connected and share local resources.
Looking ahead, in preparation for the upcoming election, our leadership will be partnering with the Alliance For Retired Americans in select states during the month of August for a voter education seminar to assist our communities in registering to vote.
- JC Tretter