Over the next week you're going to hear a lot about the proposed CBA that active NFL players are currently voting on. The proposed deal, which you can read in full here, is obviously a hot-button issue among the players, with a number of high profile guys speaking out against it. While the players seem to have multiple issues with the proposed deal, many are calling the inclusion of a 17th game and absolute non-starter. Despite players like Aaron Rodgers, Stefon Diggs, Russell Wilson, Kenny Stills, and more speaking out against the deal, there's still a chance it could pass, which would lock it into place until 2030.
We talked to Stills on the phone about the proposed CBA and why he doesn't feel like it's a good deal for the players. Additionally, Stills laid out his own plan to get the players the best deal possible, which would involve collecting enough donations so that the players could sit out an entire season. "We still want to try to raise a billion dollars or a pledge of a billion, but it would all be donations. If we do that, we can show we're prepared for a work stoppage. Basically start a movement," Stills says. "We're the only sport to not have lifetime healthcare. At the very least we could get them [fans] behind the idea of that."
In Stills mind this idea, which he says still needs to be fleshed out, would be the most effective way to get the best deal from the owners because they would swing all the leverage by sitting out an entire year. With the number of star players already speaking out against the proposed CBA, this idea certainly seems like something guys could get behind. And by raising enough money in the war chest, it would allow the lower paid NFL players to be comfortable during a work stoppage.
Read our full conversation with Kenny Stills on the proposed CBA below.
Why do you think it's such a bad deal for the players?
I think the players for the longest time have been set on a bunch of things that are non-negotiables that we continue to not get. And so I think we need to take a more radical approach by preparing for a work stoppage, reaching out to people, talking to billionaires. That way we can create some leverage to show the NFL that we're willing to sit out a game and that we are willing to sit out the season and that we have the funds to do it and that we're serious about the things that we say are non-negotiables.
The non-negotiables are different for everybody, but there's things that we need to get rid of. We need to get rid of the franchise tag. We need to get rid of these tenders that they have on us. There's no way we should be playing 17 games. We need 50% of all revenue that comes in, including the things that are going to happen with gambling. We need standards for all of our facilities when it comes to the doctors that we have, when it comes to the weight rooms and the cafeterias and the hot tubs and cold tubs, and all the things that we're supposed to have within a facility, we need a standard for that. We need our practice squad players to have a salary that they can live on. We need our practice squad players to have housing. Because a lot of guys come in on practice squad and they get cut and they sign a lease somewhere and then they're stuck in a lease and they're cut and they got to go to a new team.
And so there's all these things that that should be non-negotiables that we continue to not get. We continue to go in and negotiate with the same tactics that we have in years past, and that is the definition of insanity. And I think it's time that we step up and we put our foot down and we stick our chest out and we say, "Hey, we want to be treated fairly, and we want to player-friendly deal, and we want to work with the NFL to create the best product on and off the field and not against them." The owners and the players need to be working together to put the best product out there. And right now we're not doing that. We're working against each other. And so this deal is a no-go for me.
How do you think it got to this point where you guys are even voting on it?
There's two things that come to my mind right away. One is the negotiation tactics that they use, low balling us at the very beginning and then adding a couple of little things to a deal to make it seem like it's so much better because how shitty the deal was at the beginning. And then, yeah, I think it's fear-based. Guys are afraid of a lockout. There's guys that are not making max deals and guys that are young players and guys that are prepared to not play for a season. And so it's all fear-based and there's not enough real radical thinking, you know what I'm saying? We really got to think outside the box if we really want to make this change.
We look at basketball, we look at baseball, we look at these other sports, and soccer and kind of how they do things, and we admire the way that they do those things. It took them some work and it took them really putting their foot down. And we've got to do that. And I think guys are afraid to do that, one, because we don't have the money or whatever, but two, because it's going to be tough. It's going to take a little fight. I don't think a lot of guys want to do that. So I'm trying to lead the charge and really just excite guys and let them know, "Hey, we have the power. We're the players. We don't want anything too crazy. We just want a fair deal." And I think the league will have a better product out there on the field and off the field if the owners and the players work together instead of working against each other, and we've continued to work against each other throughout this process.
A lot of high-profile players like yourself, JJ Watt, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rogers have publicly spoken out against the deal. Do you think that's the common mindset of most players, or do you think this has a chance to actually get passed?
I mean, I definitely think it has a chance to get passed. If we've got 2000 players or whatever, 2000 active paying members of the PA or whatever and you get maybe 1500 of them or a thousand of them to vote, because not every guy's going to check their email, not every guy has been paying attention to the details or wants to exercise their right to vote. So we're just hoping that we can get one more no than we get yes.
Do you think guys would still sit out the 17th game even if this gets passed?
No, I mean, guys are going to play. They got to play. I mean, I think that there are players that are out there that might ask for a game off or something. Like say you're on a team that's doing well, they've got a good record and all these things, you might get teams or coaches that are resting a player for a game or what have you. They're going to figure out ways around it. But to me, if we go to 17 games, what's going to stop them from going to 18 games? And that's one of those things, right? If we're going to play 17 games and the league is working with the players and we're splitting all the revenue in half, then I think that's a totally different conversation. But right now the players feel like we're being taken advantage of already in the deal that ran and in the deal that they're offering us, so then when they say let's play 17 games, players are like, "Man, what?" That doesn't make any sense. That's not a good negotiation.
Do you think they're holding the TV deals over you guys?
Yeah. And that's another one of those things where a lot of us players aren't involved in business. There are guys that are somewhat involved or more involved than others. But the average player isn't involved in any business. So for us to try and understand the things that they are withholding from us and the types of deals that they could be doing and keeping from us, you never know what that is. And so it's hard for us to really sit down and understand because we're trying to negotiate with people who are doing this for a living.
Let's talk about your idea and potential plan to get a better deal.
We'd raise a pledge of donations up to a billion dollars. Starting a movement to get players lifetime healthcare. If we can raise $1 billion that'll give 2,000 players $500k to live off for one year. A work stoppage is not what we want but if that's what it takes, we want to be prepared. This pledge would be in place if we weren't able to get a deal signed within the next year. Showing we are prepared for a stoppage gives us leverage to then negotiate a fair deal with the owners. I believe the owners and players should be working together not against each other in these negotiations. If the players can get a fair deal we'll have a better product on and off the field. Which in turn makes them more money. It's on us as players to fight for everything we want and the time is now.
About them changing the drug policy in the proposed CBA, any thoughts on that? Doing away with all the suspensions and just going to fines.
I don't think that should be used in negotiation, but that's something that's a given.
Do you think they try to use that as leverage to get it passed?
100%. And that worked. It worked with a lot of guys. It's important to guys, but it shouldn't be that important. It's also not that important and it's not a good negotiation tactic for us. It's nice of them, but I mean, hey, that should be a given. Roger Goodell shouldn't be making the amount of money that he's making. He shouldn't be able to fine us the way that he has in the fine system. There's so many little details and things that we need to change and take away from this old guy's club. That's what it is. It's the old guys that are trying to run this game and tell us how it used to be done. We're never going to get the best product on and off the field until the players and the owners work together, similar to what they have going on in the NBA.