NFLPA decertifies; no lockout yet

Executive director DeMaurice Smith and the NFL Players Association decertified the union after labor talks failed. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON -- The 5 p.m. deadline has passed and the NFL Players Association has announced it will decertify.

The union has alerted the NFL, the 32 teams and also Judge David Doty in federal court in Minnesota.

League officials have said they have not yet made a decision about declaring a lockout. The current CBA runs out at midnight tonight at the end of the 7-day extension.

There seems no doubt the league will shut down player operations at some point.

Nine players are the plaintiffs on an antritrust lawsuit that has been filed -- Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Logan Mankins, Mike Vrabel, Vincent Jackson, Ben Leber, Brian Robison and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller.

"The absence of an agreement is a shared failure ... We will not waver for one moment, for one day to get an agreement that works for players, works for fans and works for the clubs," NFL counsel Jeff Pash said. "It does us no good to shut down our business. That was never our goal. That is not our purpose today. No one is happy with where we are ... This is a part of the process but not the end of the process."

In a statement, the NFLPA said, "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."

Mediator George S. Cohen, who worked with the two sides for more than 2 weeks issued a statement in which he said, in part, "A wide variety of issues both economic and work related were addressed in a professional thoufghful manner ... Those issues were explored at length, consensus emerged in a number of them and in others the differences were narrowed and focused. Regrettably, however, the parties have not acheived an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held competing positions that separated them on core issues. In these circumstances .. it is the considered judgment of myself and deputy director Scot Beckenbaugh ... that no useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."

Cohen said that he is willing to revisit the matter upon the mutual request of the two sides.

The NFL released a statement and then held a news conference on the steps outside the mediator's office.

Here is the full text of the statement: "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."

The NFL previously filed a document with that the National Labor Relations Board that says the dercertification is not valid.

"This is very disappointing day for all of us," Giants coo-owner John Mara said. "Essenitally, the union's position on the core economic issues has not changed one iota ... Their position has been take it or leave it . Essentially they have been in that same position since September.

"Their objective was to go the litigation route. They beleive that gives them the best leverage. We never got the impression they were serious about negotiating. That is unfortuante because that is not what collective bargianing is about."

Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson took a more moderate tone. "This is a time for our fans not to be discouraged ... this is a bump in the road. In due course, we will have an agreement ... There has been no anger and threats in between the players and the teams."

Well, then the lawyers spoke for both sides and out came the acrimony.

"We're discouraged, we're frustrated, we're disappointed, but we are not giving up," NFL counsel Jeff Pash said. "We know this will be resolved ... We look forward to getting back to the baragining table and getting the kind of agreement that we need to have this game go forward."

Pash outlined a number of items in the league's offer to the union, many of which were outlined in the statement released by the NFL.

He also said in reference to the 18-game schedule, "We told the union that for 2011 and 2012, we would play within a 16-game regular seaosn format. We committed to them that we would not change to 18 games without their consent." The current agreement does not require the league to get the union's consent.

Pash's punctuated each point he made with "evidentally that was not enough."

Pash said the owners were on a conference call trying to decide how to respond to the union's latest request when they saw a television report that the union has decided to decertify.

"I was disappointed and I think all of us were disappointed at the very time we were face to face with the union and its executive committee they had already made the decision to decertify," Pash said. "I think we know where the commitment was ... They had a commitment to litigate as we have said all along."

Moments later, Jim Quinn, the outside counsel for the NFLPA, called Pash "a liar."

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith told reporters that the union has been intent on negotiating and had offered $550 million in concessions over a 4-year period.

"The proposal included elements that we had rejected several times over the last 2 weeks and the last 2 years," Quinn said. "The bototm line was they wanted the players to give them a $5 billion gift without showing us a isngle document that they are in any way in financial distress. They admitted there is not a single team that is not profitable, making lots of money ... they have forced us into a situation where we could not agree to a $5 billion payback ...

"It is about greed on the part of these owners, particulary with how they want to go forward. They certainly don't want us to be their partners. They want to turn the clock back to 1987."

Today's moves also mean that all the rules that the NFL and the players association had previously collectively bargained are no longer in effect, including drug testing, the personal conduct policy and agent regulation.

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