INDIANAPOLIS — Conventional wisdom among those who follow the NFL is that its players are likely to approve a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) proposal that was sent by the union’s leaders to the general membership for a vote late Tuesday night.
But the league’s highest-paid player, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, will not be voting for the proposal.
Wilson, who is often portrayed as staying out of controversy whenever possible, waded willingly into the CBA debate Wednesday morning with a tweet saying the NFL is lagging behind the NBA and MLB in how it treats players, ending with an emphatic statement that “I VOTE NO.”
The new CBA calls for a move to a 17-game season as early as 2021 (and an expansion of playoffs to 14 teams as early as the 2020 season) in exchange for, among other things, an increase in the total percent of league revenue devoted to player salaries to up to 48.5% once the league approves a 17-game schedule, from the current 47%.
Many players have called for a 50-50 split, and Wilson’s tweet is likely a reference to the fact that MLB (48-52%) and the NBA (50%) give a higher percentage of revenue to the players. Wilson may also have been referencing that MLB and the NBA have guaranteed, or mostly guaranteed, contracts
Wilson’s tweet also referenced another talking point of some prominent players: there is no reason to make a new deal now when the current CBA goes through the 2020 season (technically expiring in March 2021).
“WE should not rush the next 10 YEARS for Today’s satisfaction,” Wilson said.
Owners are thought to want a new deal approved now so they can begin negotiating new TV deals immediately with the knowledge that they have 10 years of labor peace (the CBA would go through the 2030 season) and before what they think could be some potential volatility in TV ratings and the economy due to the upcoming presidential election.
Former Seahawks Russell Okung and Richard Sherman are each part of the NFL Players Association Executive Committee and have spoken out against the CBA proposal, as has current Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, who tweeted over the weekend “NO DEAL!!!”, while middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also is reported by ESPN to have been a “vocal participant” in a conference call with union leaders last Friday. Wagner reportedly was “challenging” five members of the executive committee who voted to approve the deal.
Linebacker K.J. Wright is the Seahawks player rep, with Wagner serving as alternate. Wright has not indicated publicly how he feels about the proposal, which was reported to have been approved by player reps and sent to the membership for a vote by a vote of 17-14 with one abstention.
The proposal now needs to be approved by only a simple majority of the roughly 2,000 dues-paying members of the NFL’s players union.
The deal that was forwarded for a vote late Tuesday night (or early Wednesday morning on the East Coast) has been reported to be basically the same as the one that the league’s owners approved last week other than with one tweak — the elimination of a cap on an increase of players’ salaries for a 17th game at $250,000.
That clause would only affect players who were already under contract beyond the 2020 season on contracts based on a 16-game season.
The cap would have impacted only a small percentage of players and only those already making significant salaries, such as Wilson, whose contract calls for a base salary in 2021 of $19 million, or roughly $1.117 million for each of the 17 weeks for which he would be paid during the season (with bonuses, Wilson’s deal averages $35 million a year through 2023).
But the removal of that clause obviously didn’t sway Wilson.
The new CBA includes a clause increasing minimum salaries by at least $90,000, one reason there’s been a thought it could get approval from many players, as that increase is significant for many players with the minimum salary for the 2020 season currently slated at $510,000.
The CBA also includes the elimination of a preseason game (so, from four to three), as well as additions to the league’s health care plan (such as vision coverage), a reduction in padded practices as well as overall practice time and improvements to the league’s pension plan.
Also left unclear is what happens if the players don’t approve the CBA. The league hinted that the offer on the table now won’t be on the table later if the players vote no, giving the strong suggestion there could be another lockout, as happened in 2011 (when ultimately a new deal was agreed to in the summer and no games were missed).
Shortly after Wilson’s tweet, news broke that Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers also spoke strongly against the proposal. Rodgers later posted a tweet explaining why he is against it.
For now, this appears to be a story with no definitive end in sight.