NFL teams are reportedly structuring their coaching contracts to prepare for a work stoppage in 2021.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday the language in contracts signed by new hires this offseason includes offsets in the event of a work stoppage following the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement. Schefter reported teams and coaches expect "some type of disruption."
The NFL and NFLPA struck a 10-year labor agreement following a lockout in 2011. However, relations between the league and players have only grown increasingly strained—particularly over matters like player punishment and the kneeling-during-the-national anthem controversy.
"I think that the likelihood of either a strike or a lockout in '21 is almost a virtual certainty," NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told Albert Breer of The MMQB in 2017.
"I don't know now, but let's look at our history," Smith continued. "The owners do a deal in 2006 and opt out in 2008. We do a deal in 2011 with no opt outs because we liked the benefits under the current deal and we didn't want to give the owners an opportunity to opt out and take back the gains that we currently have. ... So, we have a new deal where if it doesn't get fixed, you head into a certain small 'A' armageddon."
The NFLPA responded to Schefter's report Sunday, likening the contract language to preparations teams made before the 2011 lockout:
Smith told reporters in February the union was prepared for "war" with the owners.
"This collective bargaining agreement was painfully negotiated at a time where the league secured a $4 billion war chest to put us out of business," Smith said.
Despite some pushback, particularly by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Commissioner Roger Goodell in 2017 received an extension through 2023. Players and fans alike have disapproved of Goodell's reign as commissioner. His role in issuing suspensions to players has been challenged multiple times in appellate courts, though the league has come out victorious in those cases.
Players have also criticized Goodell for not rebuking President Donald Trump, who has regularly attacked players who kneel during the national anthem to protest racial discrimination and social injustice. Trump's call to suspend or fire players who kneel led to a widespread protest during the 2017 season.