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NFL would like players to ‘share the pain’ due to revenue drop

NFL, NFLPA

We still don’t know all the ways in which the 2020 NFL season is going to be affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but even if there are no lost games, there is sure to be missing fans and lost revenue.

Lost revenue, of course, could mean negotiations between the league and the players. As an ownership source told ESPN’s Dan Graziano:

“If revenues are going to be drastically reduced because of the pandemic, there’s going to have to be a negotiation about how to share the pain. And that’s not going to be an easy discussion”

On Tuesday, the NFLPA held a conference call with its board and brought up the looming revenue negotiations. Players on the call reportedly were not prepared to start talking money until after health and safety matters were sorted out. The owners, too, feel that the inevitable talks don’t need to happen yet.

When they do begin, those negotiations likely won’t be smooth, if the ongoing MLB talks are any indication. However, the NFL relies less on gate revenue than baseball, meaning the league has more incentives to return, even without fans. As Graziano notes, discussions on the two sides “sharing the pain” would be to save the 2021 salary cap, not debating whether to return to football.

The CBA agreed to in March by the NFL and NFLPA (narrowly passing the players vote) lays out a revenue-based formula for determining the cap and adding a 17th game. The CBA mandates the players receive at least 47 percent of revenue in 2020 and 48 percent in 2021.

If revenue falls short of projections in 2020 — as it likely will — the CBA includes provisions allowing the cap to be adjusted accordingly. Graziano estimates the 2021 cap could drop from $198 million per team to $170 million if the season occurred without fans in stadiums. Even though this is expected to be a one-year downturn, the cap change could dramatically alter how teams do business.

The owners, per Graziano, will approach the players soon with a slate of ideas for combating a dramatic alteration to the cap, including possible salary cuts for 2020, which is reportedly a non-starter for the players.

Unlike other major sports, the structure of individual player contracts in the NFL vary widely, too, complicating matters further. “There is not going to be a conversation about reducing our shares of revenue,” said one person on the players’ side.

The NFL earned roughly $16 billion in revenue in 2018-19 fiscal year, and aims to pull $25 billion annually by 2027.