The NFL players' union decertified on Friday, meaning that after 16 days of mediated talks, the sides could not reach agreement on a new deal making the league's first work stoppage since 1987 a near certainty.
Shortly after, ten players, including MVP Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the NFL.
This is a result that many people saw coming. Once the NFL and NFLPA got past the ancillary issues and dealt with the fact that the league wanted to take an extra billion dollars off the top of annual revenue to offset costs, but would not provide specific enough data to satisfy the NFLPA, the step that was just announced was an inevitability.
The players' union has decertified for the first time since 1989, leading to a possible antitrust suit. One week ago, the players and owners were able to extend talks for a week, because the league gave enough data to keep things going.
But on a Friday in which the owners put a final proposal on the table that supposedly "split the difference" in the wide gap between the interests of both parties, the lack of detailed financial disclosure was the thing that sealed it. The NFLPA had until 5:00 p.m. on Friday to decertify, and NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith gave the owners a final 15-minute deadline to agree to disclose audited financials before decertification documents would be sent in.
"We met with the owners until about 4 o'clock today," Smith said during an earlier break in the action. "We discussed a proposal that they had presented. At this time, significant differences continue to remain. "We informed the owners that significant difference remained, and that if there was going to be a request for an extension, (the NFLPA would ask for) 10 years of audited financial records to accompany any extension. We told them to please let us know by 5pm (ET) today. We're going to head back to the office, and I'm sure we'll have a further comment later on."
The players now wait to see if the owners will lock them out. If that happens, the players will sue in the court of Judge David Doty (the same judge who recently took the owners' $4 billion in lockout insurance away from them in a scathing ruling). And if Doty injuncts the owners from locking the players out, it's entirely possible that football will go on in the 2011 season and beyond … under a court order. The owners could also choose to ask for further negotiations instead of locking the players out, or they could establish new and onerous parameters under which football would resume, forcing the players to strike.
The NFL's post-decertification statement read, in part, as follows:
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).
Sure, but they still didn't show the players why they should take less at any time.
These are the basics; we'll have much more on the specifics as we go along.