Can the Hollywood strikes provide NFL running backs a blueprint?

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What can NFL running backs like Josh Jacobs and Saquon Barkley learn from the Hollywood strike? (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports)
What can NFL working backs like Josh Jacobs and Saquon Barkley be taught from the Hollywood strike? (Amber Matsumoto/Yahoo Sports activities)

Well-known actors and actresses on the picket strains have dominated Hollywood headlines over the previous a number of weeks after the Display Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA) joined the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in a employee’s strike.

Their trigger is easy: honest compensation for his or her work, particularly concerning residuals (or royalties) for content material that’s streamed on-line greater than when it was initially launched.

It’s not apples-to-apples, however what the WGA and SAG-AFTRA are combating for is just like the difficulty working backs face within the NFL. Saquon Barkley, Josh Jacobs and Tony Pollard are solely the newest examples of gamers who have not had the flexibility to struggle for greater salaries all through their complete careers, and subsequently are on the mercy of a depreciated market.

However whereas the actors and writers have a transparent path towards fixing their downside, the NFL working backs and the NFL Gamers Affiliation don’t.

There have been loads of concepts of the best way to clear up the NFL’s working again compensation downside. Some urged the creation of a pool of money reserved for gamers who outperform their contract. Others known as for the alteration or the elimination of the franchise tag. One other radical concept is to make working backs ineligible for the NFL Draft and rapid free brokers.

All these choices are hypothetical and theoretical, although, and never even potential till collective bargaining settlement negotiations start in seven years or so, with the brand new CBA set to run out on the finish of the 2030 season. Within the meantime, NFLPA president J.C. Tretter mentioned players could fake injuries, however even that’s a slippery slope.

There may be actually just one choice that may create any change throughout the 12 months and hopefully end in Barkley, Jacobs, Pollard and others incomes greater offers: Operating backs must maintain out from taking part in video games in the identical means actors and writers refused to work on tv exhibits and films.

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It’s what Le’Veon Bell did for your complete 2018 season and what Melvin Gordon did for 64 days in 2019. Neither ended up with the cash they desired, although, and each have since admitted remorse with their choices. Barkley even talked about the potential for sitting out video games earlier than the extension deadline handed, however famous that, “Anyone is aware of me, is aware of that is not one thing I wish to do.”

However it’s, sadly, one of the simplest ways to attempt to try to unravel the issue.

“I do not suppose something’s getting finished till gamers are educated about all the problems and so they have the right illustration of the collective bargaining settlement negotiations,” 18-year NFL agent Blake Baratz advised Yahoo Sports activities. “And in the end I do not suppose something’s getting finished till gamers are prepared to not step on the sphere.”

Greater than only one or two guys must skip video games, too. As Bell tweeted on Wednesday, the working again contract state of affairs is akin to the 1998 Disney animated film, “A Bug’s Life,” the place a colony of ants rally collectively to push again towards the oppressive grasshoppers (bear with us, right here) who demand a part of their assets in alternate for letting them proceed to stay peacefully. Just like the ants within the film, the NFL gamers vastly outnumber the NFL homeowners, and subsequently a united entrance might create change within the league.

A full union strike occurred as soon as within the NFL in 1987, however one other appears unlikely. It can occur, although. And simply take a look at Hollywood proper now on account of their work stoppage: Manufacturing on a number of high-profile tv exhibits and films has shut down and studio executives reportedly anticipate the strike to proceed for months. Which means the business will stay at a standstill whereas the unions and their bosses haggle over cash and energy.

NFL gamers sitting out would take away the league’s product and would give them — particularly, working backs — leverage at a negotiation desk that they so desperately don’t possess.

Why NFL working backs want leverage

The working again market has been stagnant since 2011 and truly declined since 2020 as a result of there’s virtually no means a participant can advocate for more cash. And why? Nicely there’s no motive for a group to provide gamers an even bigger contract within the present CBA. The rookie wage scale, the fifth-year choice for first-round picks and the franchise tag offers groups as much as seven years of contractual management after a participant is drafted, which leaves little alternative for a participant to struggle for a greater wage.

“Your leverage is your capacity to maneuver on and have another person pay you [in free agency],” Baratz mentioned. “The homeowners are good. They made it unimaginable for the gamers to have leverage if they do not wish to pay them.”

That is the place, ideally, the NFLPA would are available to make things better. It’s how the actors and writers banded collectively in a joint strike towards the studios — the 2 unions agreed to refuse to work till their calls for had been met.

However that didn’t occur for NFL gamers over the past CBA negotiations in 2020. And there’s no telling if it can occur in 2030, both. And when actions did occur, nothing actually modified. The 2011 lockout ended. Bell and Gordon each returned to the league however didn’t get the contracts they needed. Video games continued and the NFL moved ahead. And that’s as a result of the homeowners perceive there are extra gamers prepared to stay round for lower than rise up for extra.

“You’ll be able to say you don’t need a franchise tag and struggle for all of it you need, however what is the NFL’s motive for giving in on something?” Baratz mentioned. “They do not have to provide in on something as a result of they know that half the gamers within the league reside check-to-check and a 12 months off their profession is like canine years and so they do not have the flexibility to do it. In order that they know they’re gonna fold sooner or later.”

RBs have to band collectively

Solidarity rapidly occurred within the Hollywood strikes, as rich and well-known celebrities joined the decrease and underpaid staff on the picket strains. That’s additionally already occurred with working backs as high-profile gamers took to Twitter to unfold consciousness in regards to the wage discrepancies. Additionally they reportedly shaped a gaggle textual content chat to debate the difficulty additional and reportedly spoke on a Zoom name organized by the Los Angeles Chargers’ Austin Ekeler on Saturday night time.

The important thing distinction, although, is that working backs are combating for the gamers searching for the most important contracts, whereas the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes are combating for everybody, however particularly those that make the least. So when actors like Jason Sudeikis and Susan Sarandon refuse to work, their presence validates the requests of their underpaid or lower-paid friends regardless that they personally may not be as affected by the outcomes.

Operating backs, in the meantime, will greater than seemingly be combating for larger wages for the extra outstanding gamers like Barkley, Jacobs and Pollard. They wish to see a real open market, not one depreciated by the franchise tag. It’s a noble trigger, however lesser-known gamers could also be much less prone to be part of them, if solely as a result of they’d be combating for one thing they could by no means have anyway.

Austin Ekeler reportedly organized a Zoom call for NFL running backs to discuss the issues they face. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Austin Ekeler reportedly organized a Zoom name for NFL working backs to debate the problems they face. (Picture by Harry How/Getty Photos)

The most important downside dealing with any potential participant strike

Whereas the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes have literal lists of calls for, there isn’t any cohesive objective for the working backs but. A part of that’s on the union, whereas the opposite half is on particular person participant choices.

The objective can’t be simply “more cash” as a result of that concept can be manipulated right into a unfavorable narrative. Bell and Gordon had been vilified for his or her choices to not play. Gamers who ask for more cash are, sometimes, seen because the dangerous guys as a result of their motives seem egocentric juxtaposed with the fact of their million greenback paychecks.

The distinction between Barkley or Jacobs making record-setting cash versus taking a market-level contract is negligible within the grand scheme of issues. They’ve already earned generational wealth for his or her households as first-round picks, and that gained’t change in the event that they take a four-year, $64 million contract (Christian McCaffrey’s deal) or a three-year, $36 million one (Nick Chubb’s contract).

Good gamers like Pollard or Ekeler — each late-round or undrafted gamers — could be the most important beneficiaries right here. However that’s a fair smaller group.

So possibly it ought to be framed round “extra assured cash.” However these kinds of offers additionally typically solely have an effect on the highest gamers. Solely 9 of the 73 working backs who signed a free agent deal or contract extension over the previous two years obtained a minimum of $5 million assured. And there’s already an NFLPA investigation into potential collusion by homeowners to not hand out absolutely assured offers to quarterbacks, so why would they provide in to that for working backs?

The actual objective ought to be to do away with the mechanisms that bind working backs to that depreciated market: the rookie wage scale, the fifth-year choice for first-round picks and the franchise tag. The elimination of a minimum of a kind of instruments groups use to regulate participant contracts creates extra leverage, which invitations higher offers and, finally, more cash.

Once more, although, none of that may actually change for a number of years. However possibly a bit holdout will grease the wheels of that concept that’s grow to be a bit extra mainstream up to now few weeks.

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