The NFL and NFLPA are considering an opt-out option for players and it is not a good idea.
When the 2020 NFL season rolls around players either need to be on the field or all of them have to be off of it. There is no in-between and it most assuredly should not be up to the players to make that decision for themselves.
When I say they shouldn’t make that decision for themselves, I am not saying they should not have the right to choose or be forced to play if they do not feel it is safe. This entire onus is on the league and the NFLPA and players should not have to choose. If both sides believe that an opt-out option should be on the table then the NFL needs to be prepared to cancel, shorten, or delay the season start.
Honestly, the opt-out option is a mistake. It helps no one and may very well come down to paychecks. A player who makes millions or has made millions is more likely able to survive a season without getting paid. That guy who makes league minimum or was on the practice squad may not have a choice.
There are a lot of questions that would need to be answered before the league and the players association can honestly make a decision.
Can a player who opts out, opt back in later?
Will there be a deadline to opt-out or in?
Can a player who opts in then decide to opt-out?
How will the league protect players from coaches who put pressure on their players to play?
Can coaches opt-out?
Can a player who opts out return if his team makes the post-season? What about his salary for the year if he returns?
Will they get paid? Will opting out or sitting out the season count as an accrued season? Does it extend their current contract by another year? If a player’s contract is guaranteed on the first day of the season and they opt-out a day or so later and sit out the season will they pay that back?
Then there is the question of fair play. What if a team sees several of their top players opt to sit out but a division or conference rival doesn’t have an exodus of players, how is that going to change the dynamics of the division or the conference?
There is too much riding on the 2020 season to simply give the decision to players. The NFLPA represents the players and they should take a player vote to see if they report on time. Even then there are so many legal questions. Can the league or the NFLPA force a player to play when there is a pandemic that could hurt that player’s future both personally and professionally? Or their family?
The NFL and NFLPA need to agree on how they will proceed before training camp starts.
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The fact that the two sides are talking about an opt-out process might simply be a precursor to the 2020 season not happening. While the league seems hellbent on having a season and players not so sure, there is bound to be more negotiating but in the end, one player sitting out could be a domino that falls.
It would be a similar situation to the 1987 strike that saw replacement players on the field. Not in terms of the league using their leverage but instead the quality of play. Imagine if a quarter of the teams saw larger opt-out numbers and were forced to play with players taken off the street who normally wouldn’t be playing in the league. No, not like Miami in 2019. You get the idea though. Would fans want to cheer for that?
Again, nothing has been decided yet but the NFL and the NFLPA need to answer those questions before they start talking about players having that option and frankly, the best option may simply be that if a player opts out for the 2020 season, they stay out for the season and while the league play may suffer, it might be the only fair play for all concerned.