The NFL yesterday filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NFLPA at the National Labor Relations Board, alleging with just 16 days to go before the expiration of the CBA that the union has for 20 months not been engaged in good faith negotiations. The NFL said in an e-mail sent to reporters that the complaint stated the union was planning to decertify after March 3 and file an antitrust lawsuit against the league, as it had done in '89. "The NFL is asking for nothing more than the NLRB to order the union to bargain in good faith," the league said. "The NFL stated to the NLRB that the union has engaged in 'surface bargaining' and tactics designed to avoid reaching an agreement before the CBA expires so that it can file antitrust litigation. ... The union's strategy amounts to an unlawful anticipatory refusal to bargain." The NFLPA in a statement said, "The players didn't walkout and the players can't lockout. Players want a fair, new and long-term deal. We have offered proposals and solutions on every issue the owners have raised. This claim has absolutely no merit" (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal). In DC, Mark Maske reports the NFL is "seeking an order for the union to bargain in good faith." If the league is successful, that "potentially would complicate or perhaps eliminate any attempt by the players to decertify the union during this set of labor negotiations and file antitrust litigation against the owners." The players "have voted to authorize the decertification of the union if necessary," and that move, "if taken by the players, in effect would put the union out of business as a bargaining agent for the players." The players then "would have the ability to file an antitrust lawsuit against the owners" (WASHINGTON POST, 2/15). ESPN's Adam Schefter said of the NLRB filing, "It goes to show you how far the talks between the sides have disintegrated" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/14).
UNION EXPECTED LEAGUE TO MAKE THE CHARGE: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes the filing by the NFL, "which was expected by the union, is a procedural move intended to prevent decertification." Among the tactics the NFL "alleges the union has used: the failure to schedule negotiating sessions, a failure to respond in a timely manner to proposals made by the owners and an insistence on disclosure of financial data that, the NFL says in the complaint, the union has no legal right to" (N.Y. TIMES, 2/15). YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole wrote the "longer the league can delay the union and the players from getting to court, the more leverage it gains in negotiations with players, hoping to bleed them dry this offseason by making free agency disappear." If you want to get a player to "break from the union," just "tell him he's going to have to wait five more months to get money." Likewise, "tell all the other players who were expecting to be free agents that they're going to have to wait until who knows when to get paid" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/14).
DRAFT BOYCOTT POSSIBLE: NFL Network's Jason La Canfora cited sources as saying that Monday's conference call among NFLPA officials and player agents was supposed to "continue the internal dialogue on boycotting" the NFL Combine. A combine boycott "remains highly doubtful," but players skipping the NFL Draft is "likely if no collective bargaining agreement is in place by March." NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "has met individually with top agents since the Super Bowl to discuss the potential effectiveness of having prospects skip the combine" (NFL.com, 2/14).