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Reports: NFLPA expects $3B revenue loss from empty stands, planning for salary cap adjustments

Jason Owens
·2-min read

While broadcast rights are the driving revenue force for major American sports, the take at the gate matters.

A lot.

The subject came up Monday during an NFLPA call as the NFL makes plans for a season that will likely be played without fans in the stands because of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to multiple reports, the NFLPA expects empty seats to cost the league at least $3 billion in revenue this season.

Impact on salary cap?

The union is planning for salary cap adjustment because of the lost revenue. According to NFL Network, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith has held preliminary discussions with league representatives about the 2021 salary cap in the wake of lost revenue.

The new collective bargaining agreement approved in March calls for good-faith bargaining in the instance of a significant revenue shortfall; $3 billion would appear to qualify as significant.

Empty seats have significant implications for the NFL's salary cap. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Empty seats have significant implications for the NFL's salary cap. (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)

NBA also dealing with revenue losses

The NFL, of course, is not alone in this concern. The NBA anticipates a 40 percent revenue loss as long as fans remain barred from attending games. The NBPA is planning for the worst on that front, anticipating that the entire 2020-21 season will be played without fans after the conclusion of the summer’s planned bubble league in Florida to conclude this season.

And that very well could be the reality for sports leagues in America until a vaccine is developed, which could take a year or more. If so, the NBA’s salary cap could see a reduction of up to $30 million, according to ESPN.

There’s no word on what a salary cap reduction would look like for the NFL. But it would certainly be substantial considering the revenue estimates. Whether or not there’s room to spread the adjustments over multiple years will likely be a part of future discussions

COVID-19 protection plans

Revenue wasn’t the only topic of Monday’s call. The NFLPA also talked player safety for the upcoming season. According to NFL Network, NFLPA doctor Thom Mayer said the current plan is to test players three times a week and to isolate players who test positive.

COVID-19 protections entered the spotlight on Monday when Ezekiel Elliott was one of multiple Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans players to reportedly test positive for the coronavirus.

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