Lockout 2011 Day 1: NFL Players Union Decertifies, Owners Lock Out Players

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After multiple extensions and over 2 weeks of federal mediation, the NFL Players Association walked away from the negotiating table before the 5 PM deadline to decertify as a union.  As the clock just struck midnight, the NFL owners kept their word and locked out the players.   Here are a few basic questions you might be asking yourself:

What does decertification mean?

Decertification means that the union no longer exists as a collective group.

Why decertify?

By decertifying, individual players can take legal action against the NFL in case of a lockout.   This from NFL.com:

"By dissolving and announcing it no longer represents the players in collective bargaining, the union became a trade association and cleared the way for class-action lawsuits against the NFL, which opted out of the labor deal in 2008."

Would any of the players actually sue the league?

Yes and as a matter of fact, a suit was filed just after the union decertified.  Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees were among the biggest names of 10 players that filed suit against the league.

"The antitrust suit — officially known as Brady et al vs. National Football League et al — attacked the league’s policies on the draft, salary cap and free-agent restrictions such as franchise-player tags.Invoking the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust statute from 1890 that limits monopolies and restrictions on commerce, the players are seeking triple the amount of damages they’ve incurred. That means the stakes could be in the hundreds of millions."

So what happens next?

It’s a bunch of legal maneuvering for the foreseeable future.  This could get mucked up in the courts for months.  Players are not allowed to participate or train at team facilities, no free agency, trades or official team activities.  The draft will go on, but unless a deal can be worked out before April 28th (and don’t count on it) you can’t trade players of draft picks.

I heard the NFL owners made a bunch of concessions, so why did the players walk away?

There is really one main reason – MONEY.   This all still boils down to how the owners and players split up the $9 billion that we give them.  Of course we don’t directly hand over all that loot, but without us, ,there are no TV deals, no tickets sold, no merchandise.  You get the idea.  The players want to look at the owner’s books to get justification for why the owners are walking away from the old CBA.  Owners aren’t willing to share that info and in my opinion they shouldn’t have to.  Until they can agree on how to split up the money the 18 game schedule, player safety and rookie wage scale are just pawns that the opposing sides move around.  The concessions the owners supposedly made were just to give the appearance of moving toward a resolution, but if you look closely, they didn’t give anything.

Will there be NFL Football in 2011?

I believe there will be football and we won’t miss any games due to the work stoppage.  That said, it won’t be the same unless this gets worked out soon.  Teams cannot practice, new coaching staffs can’t implement their new schemes, teams can’t acquire free agents.   The 2011 season won’t be the same quality product we’re used to seeing.