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The NFL could be headed for a lockout, its first since 2011. Now NFL team owners, players, fans, and the league’s broadcast partners like CBS and Disney (which owns ABC and ESPN) are monitoring the situation with bated breath.
NFL players are expected to vote this week on the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) proposed by the league’s franchise owners. Last week, the 32 player reps in the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) voted 17-14 (with one abstention) to pass the CBA on to players for a vote, but the NFLPA executive council voted 7-4 against it. “It was sent to full membership anyway,” the Star-Telegram’s Cowboys reporter Clarence Hill Jr tweeted last week. “Uncharted waters trying to push deal through.”
The proposed CBA has a few key sticking points that are leading a handful of prominent stars to speak out against voting yes.
The sticking points include expanding the regular season from 16 games to 17 games, and raising the revenue split given to players just one percentage point, from 47% to 48%. JJ Watt tweeted on Feb. 20, “Hard no on that proposed CBA,” while Leonard Fournette tweeted, “I disagree with the 17 games,” but has since deleted it.
The NFLPA has now advised players to be financially prepared for the possibility of a lockout, according to free agent linebacker Josh Martin, who has been in the league since 2013.
The pushback to the CBA by some prominent players “makes sense,” Martin says. “When you think about adding a 17th game, that’s a 17th chance you have to be injured. So that’s a huge deal.” On the other hand, Martin acknowledges with a laugh, “It would be nice to use that last game check to max out that 401(k).”
It is actually players like Martin—journeymen who do not have big long-term contracts—who stand to lose most if there’s a lockout, while the most vocal opponents to the CBA have been visible stars like Watt, Fournette, Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and Maurkice Pouncey, players who have earned a lot of money over their careers.
Josh Martin has made just north of $5 million in his seven years in the NFL, according to Spotrac.com.
At the end of December, Martin posted on his personal blog his “facts of football,” writing: Fact #1: My football career is going to end; Fact #2: I have not made enough money to retire after my playing career; Fact #3: I’ve spent more than half of my life playing football.”
The Columbia University grad, who spent the 2016 offseason interning at a tech venture capital firm in New York, is thinking carefully about his finances and his next step after professional football.
“I haven’t made enough money to survive after football, but I’ve made plenty of relationships,” Martin tells Yahoo Finance. “I have an abundance of social capital from being in the NFL for an extended period of time... I have a website now, I have a podcast going, I wanted to put myself out there and develop that platform so that when I’m transitioning from the NFL, I’ll have that to fall back on. People will know who I am, not only from my football pursuits, but my podcast, or the value I’ve provided for them on my social media.”
Martin also spoke candidly with Yahoo Finance about what he thinks will be the biggest issue the NFL faces in the next few years: not player politics, or gambling, or domestic violence scandals, but concerns over head injuries.
“I think the head injuries really scared a lot of people, so I’ll be curious to see what the NFL looks like five, 10 years down the road when this new generation of players comes about where their parents didn’t allow their sons to play football,” Martin says. “So what is the talent level going to look like when there are a lot of other options like baseball or basketball, and those guys are making more money.”
Still, Martin has a message for concerned parents of youth football players: “There’s risk in playing all sports. Do your research, do your diligence, and you know, I played and I’m doing just fine. Ivy league degree, seven years in the league, you could do worse things.”
Daniel Roberts is an editor-at-large at Yahoo Finance and closely covers sports business. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.