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NFLPA should consider a CBA failsafe

Mike Florio and Michael David Smith explain why it makes even more sense for NFL players to vote in favor of the CBA due to the coronavirus.

Never mind the naysayers. The world has changed since the NFL and the NFL Players Association struck a tentative agreement on a new labor deal. Many of the owners are now hoping that the players will reject a deal that the owners would never put on the table amid a public-health crisis and a sudden and steep economic downturn.

The challenge for the NFLPA is clear: The union needs to find a way to give the players a chance to take the current deal and run -- before the owners take it and run away.

On Monday, the NFLPA’s board of player representatives decided not to give players a chance to change their votes. On Thursday, in recommending strongly that any players who haven’t voted on the CBA vote yes, we suggested that the board reconsider its position on giving players a chance to reconsider their votes.

But there’s another way, if the board moves quickly. Article V of the NFLPA’s Constitution gives the board broad authority to interpret and apply the terms of the governing document. In turn, Article VI, Section 6.03 of the Constitution provides that "[a]ny Collective Bargaining Agreement tentatively agreed to by the Board of Representatives with the owner representatives shall not be binding on the NFLPA until it has been ratified by a majority of the members of the NFLPA voting for ratification or rejection.”

So it’s not binding until it’s ratified. So if the rank-and-file vote comes back with not enough votes to ratify the CBA, the board needs to be able to immediately send the CBA back to all players for a new vote, given the drastically changed circumstances that have unfolded since the voting first began eight days ago.

Whatever the terminology, the board can (and should) craft an order that gives the players a fresh chance to vote in light of the dramatically changed circumstances, if the current vote ends in a no. If could be as simple as two-thirds of the members of the board resubmitting the CBA with a formal recommendation that it be adopted, given that the current vote happened without a recommendation. Or it could entail the board creatively interpreting the Constitution, as applied to these unique facts, to give the board the prerogative to submit the CBA for a new vote with players privy to the dramatic changes to the economy and society that have transpired in recent days.

It’s a unique opportunity for the players to accept a proposal that the league wouldn’t propose at this time. Watch this clip. It’s from The World According to Garp. (I know, I know: “OK, boomer.”) In it, Robin Williams’ character and his wife are thinking about buying a house. A small plane suddenly flies into it. And Williams’ character decides in that instant to buy the house, explaining to his wife that the chances of another plane ever hitting the house are astronomical.

Here, the NFLPA is selling a house, the NFL is buying it, a firm and irrevocable (for now) offer has been extended by the NFL to buy the house, and while the NFLPA is deciding whether to accept the offer, a plane has flown into the house.

It’s a no-brainer. The NFLPA should accept the offer. And if the voting that opened before the plane flew into the house results in a rejection of the offer, it’s critical for the board to give the players another chance to accept the offer before the it disappears forever.