Sunday, May 15, 2011

Is Solidarity Among NFL Players Realistic?

If the NFL lockout continues to drag on, is it realistic to expect that NFL players will remain unified?

Not all NFL players have the same needs and for that reason it remains possible that mid and lower-tier players may request a seat at the negotiation table.

The NFLPA, either as a union or trade association following decertification, has constituents like Tom Brady and Drew Brees that make in excess of $15 million. However, of the 1900 or so NFL players, half that population makes about $500,000 or less a season. That together with the average career lasting 3.5 years, this latter cluster of players is more likely to have different concerns.

Higher paid players may focus on issues like free agency restrictions, maximizing the salary cap and the franchise tag. On the other hand, the other group of NFL players would be concerned about issues closer to home, like health benefits, post-career medical coverage, earlier vesting of pensions and higher minimum salaries.

We’ve already seen one law firm try and assemble some of these players. That firm, though, had to back out after it was revealed there was a legal conflict. Still, the issue is not dead with other law firms giving it a shot.

How would the NFL react to these players asking for a seat at the table? It would pull out chair, make sure they’re comfortable and get them a skim latte (with no foam). That’s right – the NFL would be happy. Those players understand very well that they have limited earning potential and potentially short careers. As a result, they may be more willing to compromise on the key issue of revenue sharing. That by extension would apply pressure on the players as a whole to settle.

Divide and conquer. That's what the NFL is counting on in part.

If the Appeals Court rules that the NFL lockout is legal, and the lockout stays in place, we may hear more rumblings from this group of players. The next 30 days will be critical in determining how this saga will be decided.

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