Football is back, for the time being. The National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) have agreed to terms on amendments concerning COVID-19 to the current collective bargaining agreement. Both parties have embraced that COVID-19 is part of our current reality and these amendments aim to protect players and their respective organizations. Topics covered in these amendments include the likely 2020 salary cap shortfall, player opt out guidelines, and conduct guidelines involving COVID-19.
If there is a complete season, players will not experience a reduction in salaries or bonuses. However as a result of the salary cap shortfall, $17M in player benefits will be cancelled in 2020. These benefits include Severance Pay, Annuity, Second Career Savings Plan, Performance Based Pay, Tuition Assistance, Playoff Bye Week Pay, and Pro Bowl Pay (unless Pro Bowl takes place).
The two types of opt outs recognised are voluntary opt-out and higher risk player opt-out. Both conditions allow players to opt-out without being in breach of contract. For voluntary opt-outs, players who were either drafted in 2020 or have a credited season in 2019 are eligible for a $150,000 stipend. This stipend constitutes as a salary advance. Players that fall into the higher risk category(based off a modified list of conditions from the CDC) have the choice to opt-out and collect a $350,000 stipend. This stipend does not count as a salary advance nor is offset by prior salary. However the stipend for higher risk players will count towards total player cost. Both opt-out scenarios require players to report their decision within seven days from the date the NFL and NFLPA finalize the side letter. In addition to opt outs, Clubs (NFL Teams) must provide housing for players that cohabitate with high risk individuals that fall under all CDC risk factors except smoking.
Clubs may discipline players for high risk conduct. High risk conduct includes attending indoor venues with more than fifteen people. The venues explicitly listed include, night clubs, bars, house parties, music/entertainment events, indoor religious services with over 25% venue capacity and professional sporting events not sanctioned by the NFL. Players may attend indoor bars with more than fifteen people only in order to pick up food. Other activities at said venue will be deemed high risk conduct.
With the release of these guidelines, there have been a number of players who have chosen to opt out of the 2020 NFL season. Clubs have taken precautions to protect their players and employees with health measures such as increased testing, masks, touchless entry to facilities and temperature checks. However it is unknown if the health measures taken will be sufficient enough to ensure the entire NFL season will be played. Major League Baseball (MLB) has already experienced a number of COVID-19 cases within different organizations and commissioner Rob Manfred has warned of a MLB shutdown if the situation continues to deteriorate.