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4 lessons NFL players should take away from this messy CBA process

Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz has some advice on how players can be more unified during future negotiations.

Los Angeles Rams v Cleveland Browns Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

I’m a player advocate. I hope every single player gets paid, leaves the game healthy, and has a retired life full of happiness and pride for their time in the NFL. However, I’m also a realist and when I see the players acting in a manner I don’t feel is appropriate, I will speak up. Now is that time, as I think the players could be handling the collective bargaining agreement negotiations in a more professional manner.

The NFL Players Association has an extremely tough job of managing 1,700 active players with 1,700 strong personalities. I believe it has the best interest of the players in mind and works tirelessly to help better our cause. The player reps are not compensated for their time and take the “job” out of pride and honor. I will always appreciate the time and effort of the representatives, even if I disagree with some of the CBA.

I was pleased to see Browns center J.C. Tretter voted in as the new president of the players union. He’s not only qualified as a Cornell grad with a degree in industrial labor relations. But he also sent out an email to players with a detailed outline of the CBA’s main points, which is extremely helpful for anyone who finds it tough to follow along. Tretter then encouraged players to be part of the process.

He appears to be an excellent choice as president. His election also signals the players are open to approving this current proposal, which has a March 14 deadline to vote.

With that being said, here are the takeaways I believe players need to hear before approaching the next CBA negotiations.

1. Don’t wait until the last minute to pay attention

The vast majority of players don’t pay attention until now and aren’t informed during the whole process. They have one or two players association meetings throughout the year, usually one in the offseason and one during the season to elect player reps and visit with leadership for updates. Otherwise, there’s no discussion about the business of the NFLPA within the locker room.

Most often, the player reps are in charge of making decisions if needed and keeping teammates informed about any happenings in their world. I do not blame the majority of players for not caring much about this during the happy labor years. The issue becomes when CBA negotiations start, years out from a new deal. Players are so used to tuning out during the meetings, and then when they are handed at 456-page CBA proposal, they use their social media platforms to voice concerns over a situation they haven’t followed at all.

It’s even gotten to the point that players have asked that their vote, which they feel was done without knowing the full scope of the CBA, be allowed to change:

This current CBA proposal has been negotiated between the owners and the NFLPA for almost a year now. I’m certain the players association has briefed the players on their goals and what to expect throughout the negotiations. So instead of just getting involved at the very end of it, players need to approach the union meetings as vital to their future. There’s nothing more the reps can do. It’s up to the individual players to want to be informed.

2. Social media is our worst enemy

We’ve seen veteran players, who haven’t been part of the negotiations, speak out about the CBA after just running through the bullet points. I understand wanting to voice your displeasure, as it’s in your right to make that known. However, it’s not helpful for anyone to air your grievances about the CBA when you’re not in the know.

When players fire off tweets without reading the entire CBA, it is counterproductive to the entire situation. Younger players who look up to these veterans might blindly follow what they say without educating themselves. If you don’t want to be part of the process, no one is going to force you, but at least listen to the player reps and not star players tweeting their feelings without participating.

3. The NFL needs stars as player reps

LeBron James, the greatest player in the game, was the vice president in the NBA Players Association for four years. Kyrie Irving, Steph Curry, Pau Gasol, and Carmelo Anthony have all served as before too. Currently, Chris Paul is the president and Derek Fisher was in that position before. Going back, Isiah Thomas and Patrick Ewing are past presidents.

What if Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers. and Drew Brees took a more prominent role in the process? Or Russell Wilson and J.J. Watt, who were both vocal on Twitter about voting no? Since the average age of NFL players is younger than other leagues, stars who are older are able to think about issues that younger players don’t, like retirement and health care. Having bigger names more involved would encourage younger players to keep updated on the latest developments.

4. Don’t get distracted by details that aren’t as important

Players get attracted to shiny objects in the CBA, either because they don’t pay much attention or misunderstand what it’s all about. The owners care about one thing: the bottom line. A lot of players worry about practice time, less hitting, less testing for weed, and other “shiny” objects that owners don’t care about. They care about money.

I’m not naïve. I understand these are good concessions for the players and are helpful for some, but I hope everyone knows these aren’t concessions for the bottom line. I believe the players should have a higher cut of the revenue, even if that’s not likely to happen.

This list might not like seem much, but it would lead to a more unified group of players and one that’s able to send out the same message and use the media like the NFL owners do. It would allow the players to get on the same page and fight for what they believe would be best for them collectively.

It appears the new NFLPA president believes this as well, which is comforting to read.

I hope we’ve learned the lessons of this CBA negotiations and can be better moving forward.