To play or not to play－that is the question.
Under the amended collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and NFL Players Association, 67 players have voluntarily opted out of the upcoming season due to the COVID-19 pandemic－but the final tally could be higher.
Although the deadline for players to declare their intent was Aug 6, they can still opt out if there is a new diagnosis identifying a high-risk condition or if a family member dies, is hospitalized or moves to a medical facility because of COVID-19.
The NFL season is due to open on Sept 10 with the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs hosting the Houston Texans.
To be designated a voluntary opt-out, a player must be under contract and all provisions of that contract will be applicable the following season. The player will be eligible for a stipend of $150,000, which will be treated as a salary advance against his tolled contract.
To be designated a higher-risk opt-out, a player must have a diagnosis reflected in his medical records.
A higher-risk opt-out will receive an accrued season toward free agency and all benefits, along with a minimum salary credit and a stipend of $350,000, which does not constitute a salary advance.
Cleveland Browns receiver Odell Beckham Jr, however, says it doesn’t make sense to go ahead with the season given the state of the world and that the league is only pushing for it “to protect the owners’ money”.
Ahead of this week’s opening of full training camps, Beckham told the Wall Street Journal “the world is not ready to have an NFL season”, and he believes the league is moving forward only to line the pockets of team owners.
“Obviously with everything that’s going on, it doesn’t make sense that we’re trying to do this,” Beckham said. “We’re not ready for football season, the world is not ready, so why are we trying to push forward?
“It’s obviously for their (owners’) money … and that bothers me because there’s always been this－and I hate saying it－attitude by the owners of, ‘Oh, we own you guys,’ and just kind of that unfairness that they don’t see us as human beings.
“I just feel like the season shouldn’t happen and I’m prepared for it to not happen and I wouldn’t mind not having it.”
Beckham, who did not choose to opt out at the deadline and has been a full participant in the Browns’ testing protocols, noted that it’s a different situation for the NFL to return to play, compared to basketball.
“I can understand the NBA was already heading to the playoffs. Five-on-five basketball in an arena is going to be more intense than regular-season games. Hooping is different than playing an 11-on-11 contact sport where there’s 80 people in a locker room.”