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With the news of the NFL Players Association filing a grievance against the NFL, tensions could mount between both the league and players association. What started in 2016 as a simple peaceful protest with San Francisco 49ers’ Colin Kaepernick kneeling for the national anthem, not only turned into a national phenomena, but also a divide between the league and some of it’s more vocal players.
Accusations of black balling players like Kaepernick and now safety Eric Reid have been made. Comments made by President Donald Trump made it worse which lead to most of the league kneeling in protest during the third week of the season.
With the recent action taken by the NFLPA, there’s no clear path into what could happen next, especially with the collective bargaining agreement being cited to potentially have been breached for targeting players who took part in the protests. However, for all intensive purposes, let’s review what could happen should the CBA be nullified and the current players essentially go on strike.
1. A New Agreement Is Reached
This is perhaps the most realistic option. The NFL is seen as the most profitable sports league in North America, if not the world. If there is no NFL, fans are sure to flock to the number two league, the NBA. Having barely avoided a lockout in 2011, the NFL knows how big it is to have these players. Surely they can find some middle ground on this issue should it come to pass. While the owners may not like compromising on their feelings about this controversial issue, it’s something that needs to be done.
2. Replacement Players
If for some reason the owners aren’t willing to budge and players go off on their own, the NFL could still keep going with replacement players. While this sounds like the plot to the 2000’s comedy-drama, “The Replacements,” it actually happened in the 1987 season when the NFLPA called for a strike following the second week of the season.
In that time, replacement players or “scabs” were brought in to fill the voids left by those players. It happened again in 2012 with the NFL referees strike. While those strikes were some of the most scrutinized periods in the NFL’s history, it reinforced the idea that the league was willing to put something on the field in an attempt to keep the product on the field.
With leagues like the XFL coming back, the Arena Football League and Canadian Football League’s having players, they could recruit there in addition to getting players who didn’t get drafted or signed by the NFL.
3. Take Some Time Off
While not likely, the NFL could ultimately make the decision to retreat and regroup, then revisit the situation in a couple years. Given that some owners, like some groups in the United States could view the country in a state of disrepair, no matter which side of the conflict your on, it could benefit the league to step back and reassess the situation.
While it’s most likely not come to this, in today’s world anything can happen. Given the paths the NFL and NFLPA have taken to reach this point, it shows that some kind of compromise will need to be reached, possibly before this season. Even though the CBA may not expire until 2021, some union leaders are already saying that a labor war is a virtual certainty.