For Whom A Contract Tolls?

There is a twist to the upcoming NFL season that has not been present in the past and it is one that I think I understand – but am prepared to have someone correct/amend.  For the first time, players may opt-out of playing in the 2020 NFL season but that will not void their contract.  Instead the contract “will toll”.  My understanding of what that means is that in 2021 – when presumably COVID-19 will be harnessed – players can return to their teams and their contracts will simply have extended for a year.  They will make in 2021 the same salary that they would have made in 2020 had they opted in rather than opted out.

The league and the union put one more “pick and roll” – to borrow a phrase from basketball – to this situation.  Players may opt out for any reason at all and they will get an advance on the salary they will make in 2021 when they return to their teams:

  • If a player opts out for a medical reason related to COVID-19, he will receive a salary advance of $350K
  • If a player opts out for some other reason, he will receive a salary advance of $150K.

Before anyone asks, I do not know the mechanism by which there is an adjudication regarding what constitutes a “medical reason” for opting out as opposed to just a “garden variety” opting out.

I mention this today because players have until August 4th to make their opt in/opt out decision for 2020.  However, as of this morning, 25 players have opted out for 2020 and 6 of those players are New England Patriots.  I have no idea why that is the case, but that surely represents an uneven distribution of players opting out.

In addition to this new feature for the 2020 season, there is also an unprecedented agreement between the league and the union regarding player behavior(s) off the field for the balance of the 2020 season.  Some of the provisions include a ban on players attending indoor nightclubs, indoor house parties with more than 15 attendees and indoor concerts and sporting events.  The penalty for violating these sorts of restrictions is a fine – – but there is a footnote here too:

  • If a player engages in a prohibited behavior and subsequently comes down with COVID-19, then the player will be inactivated and will not be paid for the games that he misses.
  • In addition, future guaranteed money in the players’ contract can be voided  [Translation:  Misbehave and catch COVID-19 and the fine you paid just got a lot bigger.]

This all sounds as if the league and the union are seriously committed to player safety and keeping the coronavirus out of team locker rooms – – and maybe they are.  However, the enforcement of these seemingly draconian behavioral constraints is left to the individual teams.  It does not make a lot of sense to me that something as apparently important as this – and with potentially severe penalties attached to it – would be subject to 32 differing methods of enforcement.

If these restrictions on behaviors off the field are in fact going to be enforced with the stipulated consequences, I think that NFL players should take a second look at the importance of social media in their lives.  Even without ascribing terminal stupidity to a player by suggesting that he might take a few selfies at a party or a nightclub or a concert and then post it himself on any one of the social media sites available today, social media can be a real hazard.  Nearly everyone has a cell phone; nearly everyone knows how to take pictures/video on that phone; nearly everyone knows how to post said photos/videos on social media.  Ergo, there are myriad sources for documenting potential player transgressions.

For the 2020 season, I make this suggestion to NFL players:

  • Social media are not your friends…

Tomorrow night, the NBA will resurrect its 2020 season when the Jazz and the Pelicans take to the court.  In keeping with the NBA’s preferred image as a socially progressive organization, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” will be painted on the court and players will be allowed to wear social justice slogans or exhortations on their uniforms for the games.  This branding strategy on the part of the NBA is highly effective in terms of maintaining a connection with the players in the league and in terms of projecting positively to a significant portion of its fanbase.  Some have labeled the NBA’s actions on this front as brilliant.

If I were to apply the “brilliant” label here, I would have to include a dimension of the NBA’s strategy that no one says out loud.  The NBA has managed to put itself on a pedestal as a caring and progressive organization fighting for social justice reform – – and all the while being a party to social oppression when it is financially beneficial to the NBA to be a party to such social oppression.  If you think that is harsh, check out the games on TV and see if you see even a hint at social reform messages akin to :

  • #FreeHongKong – – or – –
  • #UighurLivesMatter

Finally, I missed any reporting on this topic completely, so I was interested to see this comment in Bob Molinaro’s column last week in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot.  For the record, I am in total agreement:

Public pressure: In a Japanese survey released this week, fewer than 24 percent of respondents favor holding the Summer Olympics in 2021. Without a vaccine, it won’t happen anyway.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



5 thoughts on “For Whom A Contract Tolls?”

  1. considering the fuss when Harden wore a mask that some link to Blue live Matter, I am sure that BLM is about the only one that will be allowed

  2. Thanks for the information. $150,000 to opt out; the average worker in the U.S. never makes that yearly amount in their entire life. But then, our productive working life is not five years, either. Well, my productive working life actually was five years.

      1. He’s not being PAID to sit out.. he is taking a salary advance on next year. His next year will be reduced by $150/350. You get a guy like Nate Solder who is opting out (his 5 year old son is fighting cancer. plus he has a newborn) will get (presumably) $350K out of his guarantee next season. His contract wuill be extended a year.

        I have seen some sources, though, that say the high risks get that as a stipend – it is not paid back – while the $150K opt outs are just loaned the money.

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