NFL asks for 35 percent of player salaries to be placed in escrow

The profits are always privatized, and the losses are about to be socialized.

The NFL Players Association has informed its board of player representatives that the league wants to place 35 percent of player salaries in escrow in order to help manage costs during the 2020 season, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Media.

The proposal is described as an “option on the table.” And it’s one hell of an option.

NFL Media previously floated the possibility of salary givebacks this season, given that the league is facing lost revenue from fewer (or no) fans at games and fewer (or no) preseason games. The cancellation of regular-season games would reduce revenues even farther.

The labor deal has no mechanism to permit salary reductions. At best, if no games are played, the league would be able to argue under the language of the standard player contract that no duty to pay player salaries ever arises. If only one game is played, the CBA supports an argument that the players get their full pay.

The problem arises in 2021, when the salary cap would be impacted by reduced revenues in 2020. Reducing player pay now would be a hedge against that possibility.

Regardless, it would be easy for the players to say that, when things are going well, the league doesn’t give extra money to the players. And the players never get any of the ever-increasing value of the 32 franchises. Thus, the players could take the position that the deal is the deal — just like the league and plenty of media members say whenever there’s an aspect of the CBA that, as applied, hurts the broader interests of the players.

That said, if the players are intent on pushing for no preseason games, it’s only fair that the losses from playing no preseason games be shared. But that’s different from sharing reduced revenues, when the efforts, the sacrifices, and the risks of the players won’t change. In fact, this year those efforts, sacrifices, and risks will be even greater.