The N.F.L. and the N.F.L. Players Association have finalized the last key financial issues related to this season, paving the way for an on-time start to the regular season on Sept. 10.
In the deal reached late Friday after a vote by the union’s 32 team representatives, the salary cap — or the maximum amount teams can spend on their rosters — will remain at just under $200 million per team this season. But the cap will have a minimum of $175 million next season. Any shortfalls in revenue next year will be made up by reducing the salary cap through the 2023 season.
The owners also agreed to a player proposal to scrap all preseason games to reduce the risk of infection.
The sides had already agreed on a raft of measures to reduce the risk of infection from the coronavirus as teams return to camps, meetings and practices, including outlining who can be inside team facilities and daily player testing for the virus.
But the owners and the players’ union had remained deadlocked on thornier questions, even as players began reporting to team facilities this week, leading some star players to start a public relations offensive on social media pushing for their concerns. Those included how much players will be paid if the season is shortened or canceled, and how to reduce the players’ share of the loss of revenue if teams do not allow fans at games this season.
All players have to report to training camp by July 28. But with each team required to test players and staff members at least twice before allowing them to enter their facilities to take physicals, it is more likely that practices will begin in early August.
Though all sides hope to open the regular season on Sept. 10, it remains unclear whether teams will allow any fans to attend. Earlier this week, the league said that fans would be required to wear masks at games and both the Giants and Jets became the first N.F.L. franchises to say that they would play regular-season games at MetLife Stadium without fans in attendance, heeding New Jersey’s ordinances on mass gatherings. Some teams like the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots have announced plans to limit their stadium’s capacity to allow for fans.
The league earns about one-quarter of its $15 billion in annual revenue from local sources, including ticket sales, parking, food and beverage sales, luxury boxes and sponsorships. The loss of income from these fan-less games could cost the owners and players several billion dollars, though the precise amount will not be determined until the end of the season.
The players and the league agreed on the wide-ranging parameters, having had the benefit of observing other professional leagues negotiate returns with their unions.
Although the N.F.L. and union locked horns the talks were considered to be less acrimonious than those between Major League Baseball and its players’ union.
While the owners are taking some steps, like selling additional sponsorships, to reduce their revenue losses, the players and owners had to decide how to offset the players’ share of the losses. The owners wanted to put 35 percent of player salaries this season in escrow, determine what the losses were at the end of the year and return any difference.
The players preferred to spread out the losses over as many as 10 years by reducing the salary cap. They ultimately agreed to recoup the losses over three seasons.
At the same time, the players held firm that they should be paid their full salaries even if the season is abbreviated.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Updated July 23, 2020
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
Is the coronavirus airborne?
- The coronavirus can stay aloft for hours in tiny droplets in stagnant air, infecting people as they inhale, mounting scientific evidence suggests. This risk is highest in crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation, and may help explain super-spreading events reported in meatpacking plants, churches and restaurants. It’s unclear how often the virus is spread via these tiny droplets, or aerosols, compared with larger droplets that are expelled when a sick person coughs or sneezes, or transmitted through contact with contaminated surfaces, said Linsey Marr, an aerosol expert at Virginia Tech. Aerosols are released even when a person without symptoms exhales, talks or sings, according to Dr. Marr and more than 200 other experts, who have outlined the evidence in an open letter to the World Health Organization.
What are the symptoms of coronavirus?
What’s the best material for a mask?
Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?
- So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.
In the new collective bargaining agreement signed in March, the players are owed 48 percent of league revenue, which means they are on the hook for that percentage of any losses. That labor deal does not include a clause that would allow the owners to forgo paying the players following certain extraordinary events, like natural disasters or terror attacks.
Still, the start of training camp was never in doubt because the owners have the right to open camps at their discretion, and players who do not report could face penalties. But the union had pushed for a host of steps and the negotiations over player health and safety largely concluded just before the first rookies had to report to training camp on July 20.
The league also agreed to test the players every day for the first two weeks they are in camp and if the rate of positive tests is below 5 percent, tests will be provided every other day.
According to the players’ union, 95 players and staff members tested positive for the coronavirus during the off-season. The league expects potentially hundreds of players to test positive when the nearly 2,900 rookies, veterans and free agents travel from across the country to get tested by their teams before they begin training camp.