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NFL 2011 lockout, decertification a done deal; Armageddon has arrived

A lockout looms
A lockout looms

By now you should know that the NFLPA has officially filed the paperwork to decertify as a union and proceed as a trade union. The NFLPA has done this before (see this post from last week), and they did get what they wanted, but it took 4 years for them to get that through the courts. During that time they were playing games under the rules of the last labor deal. This time around the owners will likely lock the players out so that the players won't earn money, and the players will respond with an anti-trust lawsuit to get an injunction on a lockout.

So what triggered the decertification? It seemed like the two sides were making some small, but signficant, progress on the issues facing the two sides.

For a long time the union has been asking the owners to open the books and show them the data to back up the claims that they needed to get more money.

In 2009 DeMaurice Smith wrote a letter to Goodell asking for the financial data. Here's what he had to say.

"As you know, the NFLPA does not have access to a wide range of information that is directly relevant to the contention that the current CBA fails to address the owners' concerns,"

"For example," the letter continued, "the NFL and the teams do not provide the NFLPA with their audited financial statements detailing the profit [loss] information for the teams. We also lack the information to discern the profits [losses] per regular season games, the profit per team per playoff game and other fixed financial non-player costs."

Schefter quoted Smith as saying this in September

"If there is anything wrong with this deal, if any team is losing money, if any team has lost money over the last five years, if profits are trending down over the past five years, show me and I'll change the CBA."

This week the NFL came out and offered the following data to the NFLPA (which they rejected categorically)

The NFL's proposal included:

  • audited league-wide profitability data with dollar figures from 2005 to 2009, based on individual club statements;
  • the number of teams that have seen a shift in profitability in that span;
  • an independent auditor to examine the data.
That's exactly what DeMaurice Smith wanted. Even if it's not exactly what he wanted, it's a first step and it's more than the league has offered to do before.

At this point the right thing for the NFLPA to do would be to come back with a request that's moving more towards a middle ground, but their response was that they wanted 10 years of complete financials in 15 minutes or they were decertifying. Of course the owners said no, and the union proceeded to decertify.

In the earlier post we had the NFLPA's official statement.

Here's the NFL's official statement

The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players' union has notified our office that at 4pm ET it had "decertified" and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players' financial demands in the latter years.

The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.

The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.

At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification' and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.

The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.

Whatever viewpoint you take, I think we can all agree that this isn't a good thing for the sport. I've long been an optimist and thought a deal could get done, but now I think we'll miss games. The rhetoric coming out of both camps now is very hardline and tough, and I think this will play out in the courts, which will take some time for most of the issues.

(ProFootball Talk has a report up that an injunction against the lockout is already at Judge Doty's desk, so it's possible that free agency could start almost immediately. However, if Doty rules in favor of the suit, expect the NFL to challenge that ruling on appeal.)