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Union says playoff expansion is “absolutely” a topic of collective bargaining

George Atallah

NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah pauses as he speaks to media in Washington, Monday, July 18, 2011, as talks to end the NFL lockout continued. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)


The NFL could be throwing a curve ball at the NFLPA by expanding the postseason field from 12 to 14 without seeking union approval. The NFLPA thinks it knows how to hit this specific curve ball.

In response to comments from Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggesting that the league won’t seek agreement from the union before expanding the playoffs, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah tells Bob Glauber of Newsday that adding a pair of playoff teams (and in turn a pair of playoff games) is “absolutely a topic for bargaining, no question.”

Atallah seems to be right. The National Labor Relations Act requires the parties to a Collective Bargaining Agreement to “confer in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.” The number of games to be played by NFL players surely falls within that broad definition.

But there’s really nothing that stops the NFL from huffing and puffing about unilateral implementation of playoff expansion. If the NFLPA fights too loudly, the union could risk losing the P.R. battle.

Players routinely talk about the goal of making it to the playoffs. As some fans would say, how could the players balk at having enhanced opportunities to qualify for the postseason and to compete for the ultimate goal of winning a Super Bowl?

Still, the law seems to require the NFL to negotiate with the union. Which means that the NFL may have to make one or more concessions that it’s not prepared to make, especially when the NFL possibly believes that the union benefits from enhanced playoffs via the current formula that divides revenue almost equally between the league and the union.

Maybe, in the end, the NFL isn’t huffing and puffing. Maybe the NFL will implement playoff expansion and force the union to fight something that most players possibly want.