The NFL and NFL Players Agreement have agreed that players will have seven days from the signing of the official revision to the Collective Bargaining Agreement to decide whether to opt out of the 2020 season. Since the deal has not yet been finalized, that would put the deadline at Saturday, August 8 — at the earliest.
The league, apparently rattled by the fact that nearly 40 players already have said “no thanks” to pro football in a pandemic, now wants a shorter deadline than the one previously negotiated.
Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that the NFL “is pushing to move up the deadline from one week after the new CBA side-letter is signed, and it now is expected even sooner.” Schefter’s tweet on the subject suggests that the NFLPA is fine with this, claiming that the opt-out deadline is “now expected to be moved up to either Tuesday or Wednesday.”
The NFLPA shouldn’t be fine with it. The NFL’s opt-out system already is too inflexible and unrealistic, forcing players to make binding decisions without complete information. It’s one thing to show up at camp and witness the efforts to limit the spread of the virus there. It’s another to participate in 11-on-11 padded practices, which won’t happen until the middle of August. And it’s another to play in a game against an opponent, which won’t happen until Week One of the regular season.
What if padded practices result in a spike in positive tests? What if games do? Players should have the ability to make a decision with more, not less, information, based on how things unfold in the coming weeks.
Players also should be permitted to return. If they decide based on the NFL’s handling of the pandemic and/or a potentially dramatic shift in the national attitude toward doing the things necessary to contain the virus the situation is safer than expected, why not let them come back and play?
But those are separate issues. For now, the point is that the league and the union have agreed to place a short fuse on the opt-out decision. The last thing the union should agree to do at this point is to shorten the agreed deadline even more.