New NFLPA boss has his work cut out with apathetic players

Lloyd Howell, the new head of the NFL Players Association, has an impressive resume.

He has an Ivy League background with a degree from Penn and an MBA from Harvard, and he has been longtime executive at Booz Allen.

On the other hand, he was hired in a very secretive process and has no experience in negotiating for a union.

And considering the current state of the NFLPA, it’s surprising he even wants the job. He is worth $40 million, which is less than Roger Goodell’s annual salary, but he doesn’t need the money and may not be ready for all the headaches that come with the job.

It is surprising the NFLPA didn’t go for an executive with a history of being a union organizer the way the baseball players did when they hired Marvin Miller back in the day and changed the sport for the better for the players.

Still, maybe even Miller would be unable to unite the NFL players to take on the owners. There seems to be a lot of apathy among the players about the issues.

Unlike the baseball players, NFL players have short careers and are not eager to strike or miss paychecks if they are locked out. In 1987 the owners needed only a month to break a strike by using replacement players.

And when the owners locked the players out in 2011, the players caved and gave them givebacks in a 10-year deal that was renewed in 2020 for another decade. Both times, current NFLPA head Dee Smith apparently didn’t feel the players were willing to miss paychecks.

So now Howell has to find out if he can convince the players to give up paychecks if they aren’t offered a fair deal or are locked out or go on strike. The owners, of course, prefer a one-sided deal in their favor.

One suggestion is for the players to start putting a percentage of their salary into a strike fund in 2026. The players who are cut before 2030 would get their money returned like a severance. Another would be for Howell to convince the players to live on half their salaries from 2026 to 2030 so they can afford to miss paychecks.

Of course, if the players decide they are making enough money and don’t want to miss paychecks, that is their decision.

But one thing is obvious. Unless, they are willing to miss paychecks, the players will have little leverage and the owners will continue to get what they want at the bargaining table. The players have to convince the owners there is a price for labor peace.