NFLPA sending proposed CBA to full membership

The National Football League Players Association is sending a proposed 10-year collective bargaining agreement with the league to its full membership for a vote.

The move, bringing the sport closer to labor peace for the next decade, follows further negotiations between the union and league negotiators at the ongoing scouting combine in Indianapolis, Indiana. The NFLPA delayed a potential vote on the labor deal late last week, but the full group of nearly 2,000 players will now get its chance to weigh in on the proposed agreement.

The union’s group of 32 team representatives are not making a recommendation on the proposed CBA to the full membership. It is not immediately known when specifically the players will vote, but it is likely to be within the coming days, and perhaps as soon as today. Owners last week approved the CBA terms. Union ratification requires a simple majority vote of the full membership. 

“The NFLPA Board of Player Representatives voted to send the proposed collective bargaining agreement to the full player membership for a vote,” read a terse statement from the union issued early on February 26.

The statement followed nearly four hours of negotiations on February 25 between the union and members of the league’s bargaining committee, and several more hours of internal union discussion later that evening.

That NFLPA statement, and the ongoing labor negotiation process, also suggests there is still marked division within the player camp on the proposed CBA. Most specifically, opinion remains split on the notion of an expanded regular season that would add a 17th game to each team’s schedule. 

That expansion, strongly desired by ownership as an extra tool to bring to upcoming media rights negotiations with broadcasters, has raised concerns among players about the health and safety impacts of adding that extra game. Ownership has proposed several potential mollifications, including a reduction to the preseason and roster expansions.

Public outcry among players against the 17th game, however, has still been sharp, and the NFLPA’s executive committee last week voted 6-5 against the deal. But it is not likely the union would have agreed to send the deal to the full membership if it did not have at least a reasonable chance of passing.

The current 10-year labor deal expires after the 2020 season, but if the new pact is approved, several of the planned measures would kick in right away. The new deal also contains several other historic shifts, including a playoff expansion from 12 teams to 14, pension plan improvements for past and present players, and changes to revenue sharing and salary structures.