We've reported that the NFL owners have ratified their own proposal at about 7 p.m. ET, and we shared NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith's email to the player reps just before the players association's conference call that took place an hour later. Almost two hours later, the conference call ended, and the news is not good. Not only have the players refused to vote on that proposal (and for a very good reason; they claim not to have even seen it yet), but both Smith and general counsel for the NFLPA Richard Berthelsen believe that the nature of the proposal may violate labor laws.
In short, it's illegal for an employer to coerce employees to form a union, and that's what the NFLPA believes the owners have done in calling a press conference to make it clear that they want an agreement to pass that the players haven't yet seen.
Understandably, the players and the players association aren't all too happy about this turn of events. A source close to the situation told Yahoo! Sports that there's "no way this gets fixed by [Friday] morning. Could [take] a few days just to get it back on course."
From Roger Goodell's post-settlement press conference:
With this ratification and with the ratification of the NFLPA board, we will be prepared to open the training facilities beginning on Saturday, this Saturday. We will then be prepared to start the new league year next Wednesday subject to the full membership of the players ratifying the agreement and recertifying as a union. Obviously you know that we're all under a time constraint. That's one of the reasons we worked to get this agreement completed tonight.
The NFL also is said to want proof that the majority of players have signed their voting cards to indicate the number of votes needed to approve re-certification.
The NFLPA's post-call email (in part) to the player reps:
We received the NFL's proposed procedure for finalizing a settlement. Among other things, it … Demands that the players re-form as a union and provide evidence by Tuesday, July 26 that a majority of players have signed union authorization cards…
… In addition to depriving the players of the time needed to consider forming a union and making needed changes to the old Agreement, this proposed procedure would in my view also violate federal labor laws. Those laws prohibit employers from coercing their employees into forming a union, and could result in any Agreement reached through the procedure being declared null and void.
ESPN.com is reporting that the new proposal gives the NFLPA until Friday of next week to accept the parameters of the new proposal or negotiate new ones, and that if those parameters aren't accepted, certain aspects of the new deal would revert back to the language of the previous CBA — a CBA the owners opted out of in 2008 — for the life of the new CBA. Basically, the players would lose ground and be forced to accept it for the next decade.
"It's not about having a sense of urgency," Buffalo Bills player rep George Wilson told Paul Burmeister of the NFL Network on Thursday evening. "Look — every football player and every one of our reps' desire is to be back on the field. And ultimately, we want that. But we're not going to allow this to be force-fed to us in such a short period of time. We're supposed to educate ourselves over a five-month period of negotiations, and then accept something that, at the moment, we can't even go in and sell to the rest of the guys in our locker rooms. It's not that there's not a sense of urgency; it's just that we as men first and foremost, and businessmen, are going to make educated and informed decisions. When we feel that we're at that point, then we'll put it to a vote."