Add Seattle Seahawks star linebacker Bobby Wagner to the list of players who reject the proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA) from the National Football League.
“I voted no,” Wagner said, echoing his teammate, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who indicated the deal is being rushed through for final approval.
Wagner was in New York on Monday for an event promoting author Zack O’Malley Greenburg’s new book “A-List Angels.”
Though the NFL players union extended the deadline for players to vote until Saturday after the initial Thursday date, the Wagner said players should receive more time to review the new CBA before deciding.
“The document is like 465 pages long, and I don’t think that is enough time for guys to read it,” Wagner said in an interview with CNBC at the event. “To read something that important that is going to affect your life – and this deal is 10 years long — I want guys to educate themselves on what they’re signing. I feel like we have a lot more power than guys realize.”
Last month, NFL team owners approved terms of the new 10-year CBA, which includes a 17-game regular-season schedule and two extra postseason games. The proposal says revenue shares will increase to 48% for the 2021 season, followed by another kicker when the 17th game is added, which would then put the players’ share at 48.5%. That would increase the projected payout to $5 billion to players throughout the deal.
Lower-paid players will benefit from the deal, which also improves pension pay and health care for retired players. But Wagner expressed safety concerns around the added games, saying the new CBA doesn’t fairly compensate for the additional risks.
“You have guys suffering from 16 games, and you’re going to add more games? It’s already tough on our bodies,” Wagner said. “I think if you’re going to play 17 games, I do feel like the quality of life, healthcare and player safety — all that needs to be addressed a little bit more than it does in this deal.”
Wagner also said he isn’t in favor of playing games without fans in attendance, as professional leagues around the world are either suspending games or deciding to play privately due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“If I came in there and it’s just quiet – it’s like a glorified scrimmage – I’m not trying to do that,” Wagner said, adding the “response to the virus” has caused him to use the “fist-bump” when interacting with fans.
Wagner stayed for roughly an hour to discuss Greenburg’s book, which details the stories of athletes and celebrities changing the culture of Silicon Valley via funding tech startups in exchange for equity in the companies.
Greenburg said the “guiding principle behind the book” is to share the different ways to gain future equity through investing in startups. The book uses athletes’ trend of investing in tech startups, which allowed some athletes, like former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, to gain ownership in top companies like Google and Uber.
“The average person leaves equity on the table,” Greenburg said. “If you’re at a job and you’re not maxing out your employee match on your 401K, you’re leaving equity on the table. You’re throwing away money. Athletes are starting to figure out, ‘we can be getting into these startups.'”
Wagner, 29, said part of his investment strategy is giving back to African American communities. He joined top entertainers and athletes, including Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, as an investor in Andreessen Horowitz’s Cultural Leadership Fund. The fund, which according to Forbes has raised almost $18 million, aims to improve diversity throughout the tech sector.
“At the end of the day, you want to make money, but you also want to provide opportunities for other people while doing it,” Wagner said. “Those are the investments that I like to get into.”
Wagner famously negotiated his contract extension, a three-year, $54 million deal, with the Seahawks in 2019. According to Spotrac, Wagner has earned roughly $60 million in his career, including revenue he’s made from the extension, which guarantees $40 million.