The NFL News That Fans, Players, and Owners Don’t Want to Hear

First of all, we’d like to wish a very happy 100th birthday to the NFL, which is a true milestone in sports history. For the more seasoned football fans, we’ve been watching decades of memorable Monday night games, nail-biting Super Bowl moments, and embracing unforgettable sportscasters like the late, great Howard Cosell. While there’s been plenty of drama and trauma over the last century of greatness unfolding on the gridiron, a tidbit of NFL news indicates the struggles inside the league are far from over.

A creepy countdown to 2021

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell (left) and NFLPA president DeMaurice Smith could be spending a lot of time together in 2021 during the next round of labor talks
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (left) and union leader DeMaurice Smith were all smiles when the two sides reached an agreement in 2011. | Jason Miller/Getty Images

President of the NFL Players Association DeMaurice Smith sent out an email to all the agents in the league warning of an impending end to gameplay in 2021, according to Bleacher Report. According to the report, Smith indicated the union is “advising players to plan for a work stoppage of at least a year in length” when the current collective bargaining agreement ends after the 2020 season comes to a close.

The bargaining table

So what’s on the table for a new NFL agreement when it comes to contract negotiations? According to CBS Sports, some of the terms the league and players will be reviewing and considering include:

  • Improved revenue shares, especially on media platforms including TV, radio, and social media, that are projected to reach $25 billion by 2027
  • A modification of spending minimums
  • The complete elimination of archaic funding rules requiring an escrow account to accommodate guaranteed contracts
  • Re-evaluating the rookie wage scale to rid the system of specific salary requirements
  • More consistent language in guaranteed contracts

Given the presence of these pretty hard-core demands, negotiations could prove lengthy, which will be a huge disappointment for everyone involved. The NFL news in 2021 could be more about labor strife than the game itself.

Remembering the past

As the old idiom reminds, those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it, so many of us are looking back to the some of the strikes and lockouts the NFL suffered in the past. The very first NFL labor dispute in 1968 resulted in a barely noticeable stoppage in play during the off-season summer months.  

A 1974 disagreement led to a five-week walkout, which didn’t do much of anything. Agents didn’t gain any traction in negotiations when players returned to training camp on August 10 without a satisfactory settlement.

The late eighties saw a very disappointing time period for the NFL as 1987 brought out one of the darkest periods in the league’s history. When the union went on strike after two games, owners were quick to sign replacement players. Adding insult to injury during the debate, future Hall of Famers such as Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, and Tony Dorsett crossed picket lines to play. After a 24-day drought, the union voted to end the strike, even without a mutually acceptable agreement in place. The 1987 strike came just five years after players walked off the job for 57 days.

The whole nine yards

Players might have to deal with a work stoppage in 2021, which is the NFL news no one wants to hear.
The NFL Players Association and the league don’t always see eye to eye. | Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Arguments between players and owners continued into the nineties and were mostly below the radar for the majority of fans who continued to watch their favorite players and teams compete.

In 1992, eight players filed an antitrust lawsuit, and four received a settlement worth $1.63 million, according to the Washington Post. The players typically have to fight tooth and nail to get their share of the profits, and 2021 could be the year where the fight lasts as long as ever.

Celebratory plans in place

On a more positive note, NBC Sports announced in January 2019 the league would launch an NFL100 campaign in a year-long celebration to “bring generations of football fans, players, communities, and all 32 clubs together for a unique line-up of programming and activities.”

For fans of the Super Bowl halftime show, speculation is running rampant on who will be appearing on stage considering some of the unforgettable, star-studded performances we’ve witnessed in the past.

In any event, we’re all looking forward to the action happening both on and off the field in 2019 before we pay attention to the unsatisfying NFL news about a potential work stoppage. Just like those of us who are wondering who will be headlining during the half-time show in 2020, we’ll have to take a wait-and-see type of an approach to see what will be unfolding for fans and players alike in 2021 and beyond.