The NFL Players Association will reportedly decertify ahead of a potential NFL lockout in a move that’s been expected since the collective bargaining agreement talks began to stall. The current CBA expires just before midnight on March 3, at which point the NFL owners are expected to lock the players out as offseason work stops. Ahead of that, however, in a move meant to improve its position, the NFLPA will cease to be a union, choosing instead to decertify.
The report, filed by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, says the players have the unanimous support necessary to decertify, and the union will do so before a lockout begins. By ceasing to be a union, the NFLPA can take its fight to the courts, filing an injunction in an effort to prevent a work stoppage.
The primary reason for decertification would be to file for an injunction that, if granted, would prevent the owners from locking out the players. NFLPA officials and players believe that this could be the only hope to have a full NFL season next year. Furthermore, decertifying as a union prior to the expiration of the CBA would allow NFL players to seek injunctive relief and commence anti-trust action against owners in front of U.S. District Court Judge David Doty, who has had jurisdiction over the current labor agreement since 1993.
The second part of the equation, an antitrust lawsuit, is key. The NFL has yet to face a serious anti-trust challenge, a big reason why the league can operate the way it does. If the players are successful in their anti-trust lawsuit, it’s possible the owners will either crack under the pressure or that the league will change in a big way. At this point, with the owners holding all the power and threatening a lockout, a legal battle, not mediation, is likely the only way the players can succeed.
With Thursday’s deadline looming and no progress being made in mediation talks, it looks like were headed for a messy legal battle and lengthy lockout, with the real possibility of a season without football hanging in the balance. Stay with our NFL lockout StoryStream for the latest as the NFL and NFLPA battle it out over a new CBA.