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Why NFL players voted to approve the new CBA, despite its clear flaws

Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz isn’t surprised that the new collective bargaining agreement was passed, even if it’s not perfect.

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NFL: JAN 30 Super Bowl LIV - NFLPA Press Conference Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

NFL players approved the new collective bargaining proposal from the owners by a narrow margin of 1,019-959 votes. Approximately 500 NFL players did not vote. Nonetheless, the CBA, which will go through the 2030 season, was passed by the voting majority. It’s a result I expected all along, but the margin is surprising.

The deal was approved, even with a vocal group of veteran players on social media and in the union. I know there’s discussion about players deciding to vote because of the current climate with the coronavirus outbreak and the stock market panic, but I find that hard to believe. I think this CBA was probably always getting passed. Here’s why.

There are two main reasons the CBA was approved

The first is it helps the “rank-and-file” members of the union more than the stars. The increases to the minimum salaries is significant, and I believe most rank-and-file players vote for what’s important now, and not what matters later in their career or in retirement.

This is why I was surprised to see so many “no” votes. There were reports earlier in the week that some players wanted to change their vote and the NFL Players Association refused their request. However, it was also speculated that most of those players were looking to change their vote from “no” to “yes,” once they had more details about the CBA. Too many players were initially influenced by the voices on social media, and I believe once they began to study the CBA for themselves, they wanted to change their votes.

Then again, according to Benjamin Allbright, it wouldn’t have mattered anyway:

The second reason is why, deep down, this vote passed and why the union negotiated this deal a year earlier than it needed to: THE PLAYERS AREN’T WILLING TO SIT OUT GAMES.

The players’ best leverage in all of this is the threat of sitting out games. I have the unique perspective of this, being part of the 2011 lockout and CBA negotiations. Players swore they’d be able to hold out for a season. Then, as soon as they began to sniff the start of training camp, the players caved. Players needed money. They had taken out high-interest loans, or were just out of money as the season approached. They wanted a deal, and that meant settling for less.

While the NFLPA had been encouraging players for a few years to save money in case there was a work stoppage, remember what I said: a majority of the NFL is rank-and-file. They are NOT prepared for a holdout. They have not put money back, some because they’re younger and/or can’t. Even some veterans who talk a big game aren’t ready for that. And that’s always hanging over these negotiations.

Approving the CBA now gets them more money and right away.

The CBA is by no means perfect

No one is ever completely happy with a labor deal — in any negotiation, your side is going to give a little and get a little. That said, I’d have voted yes for this CBA, even as I recognize its limitations.

Money is what owners care about. They don’t care about less practice time or less testing for street drugs, which is why they were willing to concede those points. The players didn’t get enough in return for a 17th game, though.

They needed a bigger revenue split than 48.5 percent. They needed an extra bye week for the extra game. They needed more roster spots and a larger increase of the gameday active list than they received.

There’s debate on the acceptable nature of the benefits for all retired players. Some would argue it does enough for now, as Carl Eller, president of the NFL Retired Players Association, does here.

It allows players to receive retirement benefits after three years, instead of at four years, and retroactively. Retired players will often complain, and rightfully so, that we lose our NFL insurance after five years. In this new deal, while we don’t get lifetime insurance (which was unrealistic anyway), the NFL has agreed to open clinics in NFL cities where players can get free health care. Pensions will increase for some of the retired players as well. However, there’s an issue with cutting disability benefits that doesn’t seem appropriate for everything the retired players went through playing this game.

There’s plenty not to like. But, in the end, retired players get more benefits and younger players get more money. I understand why players voted “yes.”

If you want to hear more, I got on Periscope to explain further: