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NFL Lockout Begins After Midnight Deadline Passes

There was no last-ditch effort to stop a lockout or last-minute deal: At 12 a.m. Eastern on Friday night, the NFL lockout began. Owners made it official earlier in the evening, and with the quiet passage of time, a work stoppage started. In the immediate, it means little: Players cannot be signed, free agency is stalled and teams can have no contact with players. But the threat of a season without football, while still far off, is real.

The NFL released a statement early Saturday morning confirming reports of a lockout while lamenting it came to this.

The league said in a statement Saturday it was “taking the difficult but necessary step of exercising its right under federal labor low to impose a lockout of the union.”

The lockout is the first work stoppage in the NFL since 1987.

The NFL lockout comes on the heels of the NFLPA’s decision to decertify on Friday, ceasing to be the bargaining union for the players and, instead, becoming a professional trade association. With the union dissolved, Tom Brady, Drew Brees and others filed an antitrust lawsuit, the first of many litigation battles to likely take place during the lockout. The players may also file an injunction to put a stop to the lockout, as well.

The NFL and NFLPA were still too far apart on the money issue with about $1 billion hanging in the balance. The NFLPA asked for 10 years of complete financial records from the league as a prerequisite for any further extension, but the league balked at the proposal, sending the negotiations into a tailspin. Without financial transparency, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith decided it was time to walk away and decertify.

It’s unknown how long a lockout could last, though both sides appear to be digging in for a long legal battle. If it drags on through the summer, the possibility of a shortened season, or one without football, increases, but is still a long-shot. Look for talks to heat up as the threat of losing games draws closer.

For more on the proceedings, check out the rest of our NFL lockout StoryStream.