BREAKING: NFLPA Decertifies, Owners Likely Cannot Lock Out Players

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Roger Goodell was just saying on television that he believes that this will be resolved at the negotiating table, but that the players have chosen a different route.

Boy, have they ever.

The NFL Players Association has filed in court for decertification, something that they had planned for all season, as the teams and members of the union had unanimously voted all season for this possibility.

The owners say they were fully engaged and fully committed to a solution, but in reality, their goal all along has been to avoid litigation and any anti-trust suit.nfl-logo
Decertification is an interesting thing. Had the NFLPA not decertified, they would have had to wait 6 months after the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It was really the NFLPA’s only power play against owners that had been preparing for this lockout for the last two seasons: Cease to exist.

The biggest thing that the players want currently is for the owners to open the books. The hangup in negotiations hinged on this particular point over the last week.

The owners have said that they are losing money, and need 18 percent of their revenue back. The NFLPA all along has said all that they want is proof that they have in fact been losing that money, and for the owners to completely open up the books and show what is happening.

When the owners refused, the NFLPA had very little choice moving forward.

What does decertification mean for the players? It means they can now take their battle to court and, more importantly, to the court room of Judge David Doty, who presides over any of the processes that happen.

The players can, as a group, do two things: File an antitrust suit against the owners and file an injunction against the owners preventing the owners from locking out. Labor unions, in accordance with the National Labor Relations Board, do not have the ability to file these lawsuits.

ESPN’s Lester Munson, a former Chicago attorney, has stated that this is a difficult lawsuit for the players but one they can, and eventually will, win.

The reason is that the NFL, truly, has a monopoly. They have a stranglehold on the market. They are the only major entity employing players to play football. They are a 9 billion (with a freaking B!!) dollar per year industry. There is very little chance that the owners could win any such suit, and in fact, just one year ago LOST a suit in front of The Supreme Court stating that they were NOT a monopoly — and lost it in a 9-0 decision.

For those unfamiliar with The Supreme Court, getting all nine of those opinionated judges to agree on anything is…well, unusual, to say the least.

Finally, this will not be resolved quickly. Litigation takes time, and it will be difficult to negotiate as each side prepares for the almost-certain upcoming trials.

It certainly appears that all of the stories predicting the NFL labor strife to last well into August or September are much more likely this afternoon than they were yesterday.

Paul Schmidt is a senior contributor and media relations director for the Sports Bank, and is entering his tenth year of writing about sports in Chicago and Illinois.

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