Following the NFLPA’s decision to decertify after mediation failed on Friday, both the union and owners released separate statements expressing disappointment while spelling out what the choice to decertify means. Union chief DeMaurice Smith had requested 10 years of audited financial records as a prerequisite to any extension, but with talks breaking down the decision was made to take the battle to the courts.
Mediator George Cohen chimed in, adding talks were going nowhere and “no useful purpose would be served” by continuing the mediation process. Though small concessions had been made during the past week following an extension to the current collective bargaining agreement, the two sides were still far apart on the big issues in the negotiations.
Smith released his own statement, outlining the union’s next plans. The NFLPA will become a trade association, giving up its status as the exclusive collective bargaining association with the NFL.
“The NFL Players Association … has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the NFL. The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of the current and former professional football players.”
The owners, on the other hand, said the NFLPA left a “good deal” on the table and walked away from the talks to pursue litigation.
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 next logical step is litigation, with players likely filing an antitrust lawsuit against the league. All indications point to a lengthy legal battle as both sides dig in for the long haul. It doesn’t mean the 2011 season is in jeopardy yet, but the fight could get messier than it’s been already.
For the latest, check out the rest of our NFL lockout StoryStream.