NFL lockout is underway


Hopes for a contract agreement between National Football League players and the NFL owners were dashed late Friday (3/11) as the negotiations fell apart. The players’ union formally moved to decertify as a bargaining unit and the owners promptly locked out the players.

Next stop: Federal Court. Immediately after the decertification 10 NFL players filed suit in a US District Court in Minneapolis, which has jurisdiction over league matters. The players are seeking triple damages under the Sherman Antitrust Act, so hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake.

Until the standoff is resolved there will be no 2011-2012 NFL season. However, the first games scheduled to air on CBS, NBC, Fox and ESPN are still months away.

Here is Friday’s statement from the union:

“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.”

And here is that statement from the league:

“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. 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.”

RBR-TVBR observation: There is still a lot of time before the next season is supposed to start, so this is really bare-knuckled bargaining at this point. With so much money at stake, most broadcasters are betting that the millionaire players will settle with the billionaire owners with few, if any, games actually missed.