After months of nego­ti­a­tions between NFL owners and player rep­re­sen­ta­tives, the two sides agreed on a new 10-​​year col­lec­tive bar­gaining agree­ment ear­lier this week. The move ended the lockout and sal­vaged the upcoming foot­ball season. Roger Abrams, the Richardson Pro­fessor of Law at Northeastern’s School of Law — who has taught sports law for 25 years – exam­ines the agree­ment and the state of the sport.

Now that the lockout has ended, can you assess how the col­lec­tive bar­gaining process went — its greatest strengths and weaknesses?

Col­lec­tive bar­gaining can be very frus­trating both when you are at the nego­ti­ating table or when you are simply observing the process. When the dis­pute involves our new “national pas­time” of NFL foot­ball, it is doubly frus­trating. Actu­ally, I think the nego­ti­a­tions went much as expected. I had pre­dicted a mid-​​July set­tle­ment when this all started in March. This was the time when a deal had to be made — when there would be a “cost of dis­agree­ment” imposed on both sides by a con­tinued stale­mate. While I am not happy that the player’s union resorted to decer­ti­fi­ca­tion and a court action, it seems to have helped propel the par­ties for­ward. In any case, it gives me a new case to dis­cuss in my Sports Law course.

What are the most impor­tant aspects of this new deal for the sport, and are there any con­cerning issues that remain unresolved?

I like the 10-​​year length of the agree­ment. This will add sta­bility. The deal on the money is hard to eval­uate because it depends upon the NFL’s gross rev­enues con­tin­uing to grow. The rookie salary cap is a good idea. The guys who have proven their value on the field should have a bigger share of the pie. I also like the idea of raising the floor on the team salary cap so that all players league-​​wide will ben­efit. I look for­ward to seeing what the par­ties will do with the pending legal actions — both in court and before the National Labor Rela­tions Board. The major unre­solved issue is whether this deal will be the last show­down between the par­ties, much like the 1994–95 base­ball strike was (so far) the last work stop­page in Major League Base­ball. Will the par­ties form a part­ner­ship? We shall see.

Sports fans voiced their frus­tra­tion throughout the summer about the uncer­tainty of the next NFL season. Despite the fact that a deal is in place, will the off-​​the-​​field bat­tles between the players and owners this summer have any lin­gering affects on the sport from the fans’ perspective?

The fans can’t wait for the first kickoff in the first mean­ing­less pre-​​season game. No one missed any foot­ball — unlike during the 1987 strike — and so none of the fans should be turned off from the game. How­ever, I think many fans will shy away from the worst of the vio­lence in the sport, because they now know the lasting effects it has on players.