The NFL has given its players limited opt-out rights. MLB has provided players with greater opt-out flexibility. One of them has opted to take advantage of it.
Milwaukee Brewers centerfielder Lorenzo Cain has opted out of the balance of the 2020 season. The Brewers’ season has been interrupted by the postponement of a pair of games against the St. Louis Cardinals, the latest MLB team dealing with an outbreak.
The NFL’s rigid opt-out deadline will arrive seven days after execution of the formal agreement setting forth the safety and financial rules of pro football in a pandemic. Players who opt out can’t return (unlike baseball), and those who don’t opt out are stuck.
As noted during Friday’s PFT Live, some NFL players could choose to simply retire. Those who have no unearned signing bonus money would be able to walk away from the game with no financial consequence — and to return whenever they want. This would give them a chance to step back, monitor the situation, and maybe to eventually resume their careers later this season, if they are comfortable with the status of the pandemic and/or the NFL’s efforts to limit the spread of the virus.
Obviously, players who retire will give up their base salaries. But those who opt out also forfeit their base salaries (subject to a stipend that counts against future earnings), and they can’t come back at all in 2020.
Thus, for those not ready to make an irrevocable opt-out decision in August (and who wouldn’t owe significant signing bonus money to their teams), there’s an unlimited opt-out right, known as retirement. The ease of unretirement makes it a viable alternative to opting out.