WASHINGTON - The NFL Players Association decertified minutes ago, sources said, as negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement with the NFL broke off today.
The battle over the 2011 season now will move to the court room.
And that has started as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and guard Logan Mankins were among nine lead plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that was filed by the NFLPA to either stop the lockout, or sue over any other anticompetitive restrictions put in place.
UPDATE: Here's the statement from the league:
The NFL Players Association announced today it has informed the NFL, NFL clubs and other necessary parties that it has renounced its status as the exclusive collective bargaining representative of the players of the National Football League.
The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players.
By becoming a trade organization, the players can still associate with each other and work together as a group but it's not formally in the shape of a union.
Of course, the NFL is likely to argue the NFLPA is still a union and the decertification should not be valid.
Federal mediator George Cohen just gave a statement to the media where he said in his opinion there would be "no constructive purpose would be served" by continuing mediation.
UPDATE: Here is the statement from the NFL:
The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4pm ET it had “decertified” and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years.
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 union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes.
At a time when thousands of employees are fighting for their collective bargaining rights, this union has chosen to abandon collective bargaining in favor of a sham ‘decertification’ and antitrust litigation. This litigation maneuver is built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement.
The NFL clubs remain committed to collective bargaining and the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached. The NFL calls on the union to return to negotiations immediately. NFL players, clubs, and fans want an agreement. The only place it can be reached is at the bargaining table.
NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said no decision has been made on a potential lockout by the owners.
The union will likely file an antitrust suit against the NFL by the end of the day.
The next move is up to the owners, whether they lock the players out -- which the players will claim is not allowed -- or else continue business under the rules it deems necessary.
This does not mean there will not be football on the horizon.
First of all, the two sides could still come to an agreement and the union could then reconstitute itself.
Secondly, the owners could decide against a lockout and continue the league under the rules that were in place during the 2010 season. This is what happened in 1989. The players later sued and when they won their antitrust suit, the two sides settled on a new CBA.
The other likely option
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