The NFL’s current CBA with the NFLPA will not expire until 2021. In between now and then, Pittsburgh Steelers’ NFLPA representative Ramon Foster is encouraging players to save their money in anticipation of a prolonged lockout.
“Hit them in the pocket. That way, money always talks,” Foster said, via ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. “For us to do that, we have to save on our end. We can’t be just blowing money and not realize what’s coming, especially with guys coming into the league now.”
In lockouts, owners tend to be coming more from a position of strength than the players. Owners generally have significantly more money saved up than the players do. Additionally, while there are over 1,600 NFL players who make a wide variety of salaries, there are only 32 owners that all make roughly the same.
One issue that Foster feels strongest about — what the two sides will be fighting over — is the application of punishments, particularly on positive drug tests. Between Le’Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant, this is a particularly sensitive issue for the Steelers.
“Every situation has been different. Not one person has had the same penalty,” Foster added, per Fowler. “It’s always how the person is feeling who’s handing down the execution. It needs to be refined. It can’t just go through one person.”
A prolonged fight is definitely anticipated as a viable scenario in five years.
Foster noted that the NFL is preparing itself for a long battle. Because of that, the players need to do the same.
“It’s coming. They’ve hired certain people on their legal team, the NFL has, and we have to be the type of players and union that’s not borrowing money from banks and stuff like that to survive a lockout, a strike,” Foster said. “That can’t happen this time around. We have to be smarter this time around because there are a lot of things we’re going to be fighting for and a lot of things they are going to want and we’re going to want, too.”
Prolonged lockouts are not rare by any means.
The NFL had a lockout into training camp in 2011, but it ultimately it didn’t cost the league any regular season action. The last work stoppage to result in cancelled games came in 1987.
Other sports, however, have had dramatic work stoppages since 1987.
MLB dealt with a prolonged strike in 1994-95 that ultimately led to a cancelled 1994 World Series. The NBA has had dramatically shortened seasons in 1998-99 and 2011-12. The NHL had a shortened season in 2012-13, which came on the heels of a completely cancelled 2004-05 campaign.
If the players heed Foster’s advice and save their money up, it will negate a good portion of the NFL’s advantage over them. With that, they have a better chance to get a good deal. They also more likely to produce a lockout that results in missed games, or even a missed season, which is likely necessary to ensure change occurs.