The rift between the NFL and the NFLPA is a long and storied one. The NFL owners have long held control over the league and been reluctant to surrender any of it (or the cash) to the players. Hopes were high the relationship was mended in 2011 after a short work stoppage but appears inevitable that the league is headed toward a strike when the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) expires at the end of the 2021 season.
So what are the issues that could potentially rip the 2021 season apart? Well the same issues they have always fought over: Power and Money.
The players feel the franchise tag has given the league too much power over a player. “Why should a franchise control where a player plays after his contract has expired” they argue. No other major sports league has such a policy in place. The tag is so unpopular, Le’Veon Bell chose to sit out the 2018 season instead of play for the Steelers under the tag and Giants safety Landon Collins is threatening to do the same. However, to the owners, the tag represents an insurance policy on their investment in players. It allows teams to keep their own talent and allegedly gives small market teams a chance to lock up franchise caliber players to long-term deals. Both sides are unlikely to budge on the issue.
The players are also peeved with the overwhelming power of commissioner Roger Goodell. The commissioner’s office has acted as judge, jury, and executioner in disciplinary matters in the current CBA. The players will likely ask for a neutral arbitrator in the new CBA to deal with appeals. Currently, Goodell deals with all appeals, which is Bananaland crazy because he issues the original suspensions. The NFL will likely cave on this, as keeping internal affairs out of the courts benefits both parties.
Finally, it will all come down to money. Both sides are going to fight for a pay raise. Russell Okung went on record in July saying “I will never understand how billionaire team owners have convinced the public that the players, who put their bodies on the line every week and make less than 50% of league revenue, are the ‘ungrateful’ ones.” He has a great point. However, I expect the players to focus more on getting more money guaranteed than getting a bigger piece of the pie. Guaranteed money is going to be the crown jewel for the players. Until the players know they are getting paid what was promised, expect a strike to drag on.