NFL players union decertifies; Rooney expects lockout
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The ball is now in someone else's court.
That would be the courtroom of Judge David Doty in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis after the National Football League and its Players Association failed on Friday to come up with either a labor agreement or another extension of it to continue negotiations.
The NFLPA filed to decertify as a union moments before the current collective bargaining agreement expired at 5 p.m. Friday. That ended its rights to further negotiate a labor agreement for the players and the federal courts will now decide what happens next.
While a lockout of the players by NFL owners is almost universally expected, they have not yet taken such action but may do so soon. (Read a letter to fans from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell).
"We're going to make that decision in the next 24 hours," Steelers president Art Rooney said by phone before leaving Washington to return to Pittsburgh this evening. "I would say we're probably headed in that direction."
Rooney is a member of the 10-man management council executive committee and has been in Washington as part of the ownership group negotiating with the players. That committee has been given authority by the 32 NFL owners to rule on a lockout.
Rooney called the end of negotiations today "very disappointing."
"When we got [an] extension last week I thought maybe we'd get something done. Unfortunately I think the players chose to throw everything into the lawyers' hands at this point and unfortunately that's where we're going to be for some time period."
Ultimately, it could be Judge Doty, 81, who decides if there will be football played this season. He has ruled many times on the players' behalf through the years, most recently when he decided last week that the owners could not receive $4 billion from their television contracts as part of what was termed "lockout insurance.''
The NFLPA e-mailed the following statement shortly after the deadline for another contract extension passed:
"The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.
"The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players." (Read a breakdown of the issues players felt prevented an agreement.
Not long after that, the NFL issued its own 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 4 p.m. 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."
First Published March 11, 2011 5:16 pm