SBD/March 10, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Labor Watch: Movement Necessary In Talks To Avoid Union Decertification Friday



NFLPA's refusal to agree to 18-game season may be bad sign for talks
The "ongoing differences" between NFL owners and the players' union have made a settlement by Friday's 11:59pm ET bargaining deadline "appear increasingly out of reach," according to sources cited by Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. Sources said that it will take "movement in the bargaining or another unexpected late-week twist ... to avoid the players decertifying the union Friday and seeking a court injunction to block a lockout Saturday of the players by the sport's franchise owners." The sources added that "only a major change in the coming days could make a settlement this week a significant possibility," though a "third postponement of the deadline remains possible." One source said that NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith's comments yesterday that the union "won't agree" to an 18-game regular season are a "bad sign for the negotiations." The source: "When one side says everything is negotiable and the other starts taking things off the table and drawing lines in the sand, that side is getting ready to walk." Maske notes last week's postponements of the bargaining deadline "buoyed hopes around the sport that a settlement this week was possible or perhaps even likely." But sources "cautioned at the time that the league and union still were between" $750-800M per year apart on the "central issue of how much of the sport's approximately $9 billion in annual revenues would go to the players." It appears that "little or no progress has been made this week on that issue, and the talks have stalled over the terms by which the league would attempt to satisfy the union's long-standing demand for more financial information about the teams" (WASHINGTON POST, 3/10). On Long Island, Bob Glauber cites a source as saying that the NFLPA's "intransigence might be a sign it's ready to decertify and go through the courts to force a better deal" (NEWSDAY, 3/10).

COUNTER ATTACK: USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes the threat of the NFLPA "disbanding as a union and pursuing antitrust action against the NFL is an undeniable counterstrategy matched against the possibility that NFL owners will institute a lockout if the sides are unable to negotiate" a new CBA. The timing for the union to "disclaim its interest is crucial." Unlike the "lengthy decertification process through the National Labor Relations Board," the NFLPA "would renounce bargaining rights with letters to the NFL, its 32 teams and U.S. District Court Judge David Doty several hours before the CBA expires." Legal experts said that a lockout after decertification "would likely be added to the list of alleged antitrust allegations, as players then would seek an injunction to prevent a lockout" (USA TODAY, 3/10).

MANIC MONDAY: In N.Y., Gary Myers cites an NFL player agent as saying that if the union decertifies and the league locks players out, he "will send all his clients to work Monday at the team facilities and predicts others will do the same." The agent said that "once the union decertifies and if the league can't stop it by proving it's a sham, as it maintains, then he said the players can't be denied the right to work." The agent: "Every guy shows up for work and says, 'I honor my contract. If you don't want to honor my contract, then I'm free.' If they turn them away, I'm going to state court to let you know my contract is null and void and I'm a free agent and you owe me damages, treble damages because you are locking me out and it's a restraint of trade because there is no union" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 3/10).
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