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NFL player union prepares for possible 2021 work stoppage

Updated February 1, 2019 - 7:54 am

ATLANTA — The second year of the Las Vegas Raiders includes the potential for a work stoppage, a likelihood that gained context Thursday as NFL Players Association officials discussed some of their preparations for 2021.

Such efforts begin with a player education campaign, union president Eric Winston said, and continue with the expansion of a war chest already worth “hundreds of millions” of dollars. The latter can be applied to help fund what may become an exorbitantly expensive battle with the NFL over the next collective bargaining agreement.

The current CBA, negotiated in 2011, is set to expire in March 2021.

Owners locked out players for four-plus months when negotiating the present deal. The players union seeks to be better prepared for a prolonged stoppage should one occur. This goal was at the heart of comments heard inside the Georgia World Congress Center during the organization’s annual Super Bowl news conference.

“It’s our job to prepare for the wars that we hope we don’t have to fight,” said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith.

Winston and Smith were among the officials who represented the NFLPA at the event. Other members in the panel included active players, such as Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, Chicago Bears linebacker Sam Acho and Los Angeles Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung.

Winston listed a three-item platform for players.

The first was education.

“They’ve got to know what they’re up against,” Winston said. “They got to know what’s coming, and they have to understand, just like a game, the tactics that are going to be used and how to fight against it. No. 2 is obviously financial literacy. It’s something we’ve been pushing. Guys need to save their money. That doesn’t mean they need to save their money (for) a lockout; they need to save their money all the time. Some of these things that we’re trying to communicate are just good things they need to do.

“And three is hearing the stories and understanding the past — not just 2011 but go back, keep going back and understand the whole view, understand the macro view. … We know almost everybody (who) will come up against it in 2021 wasn’t in the league in 2011. Very few guys will be there, so it’s incumbent on us to pass those stories down.”

Player union dues are applied to the aforementioned war chest.

Additionally, two years ago, the union’s board of player representatives voted to withhold disbursement of royalty checks owed to players whose names and likenesses are used in the Madden NFL video game franchise for the 2018 to 2020 seasons. The board will determine in 2021 how to distribute these funds to players.

The action was intended to ensure players will have some revenue stream during a work stoppage.

Winston estimated the Madden checks would amount to $55,000 to $60,000 for a player who was in the league all three seasons.

“It’s a board decision,” Winston said. “The players decided that. They wanted to start putting these avenues together to get ready. I’m not saying we’re going to sit here and say, ‘Oh, we’re waiting for a lockout.’ Hopefully, down the road, we can figure something out. But at the end of the day, to me, it would be malpractice if we weren’t ready.

“As we all know, the (NFL) is a copycat league. If it happened before, it can happen again. So, we’ve got to be ready.”

Contact reporter Michael Gehlken at mgehlken@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GehlkenNFL on Twitter.

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