NFL Labor Dispute: Armageddon

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 03: National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks with the media on March 3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The NFL and the players' union agreed to an extension of the current collective bargaining agreement. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Well, technically not Armageddon, but pretty close. After the negotiations between the NFL owners and the players broke down, the NFLPA wrote itself out of existence. The players' union no longer exists. Technically, that's all that has happened so far, but this is only a first move in what will almost certainly be a summer filled with litigation. What's going to happen next?

The NFLPA decided to de-certify itself in an effort to preempt the NFL owners, and forestall a lockout. Now that there is no more union, the players and the owners are no longer covered by the labor law exemption to US anti-trust law. So any action the owners take in concert would very likely be considered a violation of such laws, and would prompt lawsuits by the players.

 

This probably won't stop the NFL from locking out the players. Remember about a month ago, the NFL filed an unfair labor practice claim against the union, wherein they alleged the coming de-certification was simply a ploy, or a sham to avoid a lockout. If they won that grievance, they'd be able to continue the lock out free from fear of antitrust suits.

But in the meantime, expect the lockout to happen and the antitrust lawsuits to come flying in. There have already been stories naming the potential player plaintiffs in any such lawsuits. Remember, each side has some leverage. The players won't be getting their game checks, but thanks to the decision handed down by Judge Doty a couple weeks ago, the owners won't be getting their TV checks either.

There are significant hurdles to overcome. Reports were that the talks broke down because of the owners refusing to turn over their financial statements and justify their demand for extra money off the top. It doesn't look like the owners will be willing to back off that refusal any time soon, nor will the players rescind their demand to see the books. What we'll see are issues being decided in the courtroom, while back room negotiations still take place.

Despite this significant development, no one wants to see a season canceled. That would truly be Armageddon, and something both sides want to avoid. There will probably be football in 2011, though when there's football and for how many games remains an open question.

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