Plenty of NFL observers have opinions as to whether owners will lock out players in 2011, if the current labor deal expires without a new one taking its place.
Sports attorney David Cornwell believes that there will be no lockout.
His opinion carries extra weight in our eyes, given that he was one of four finalists for the position of NFLPA Executive Director last March, along with De Smith, Trace Armstrong, and Troy Vincent.
As Cornwell explains it, the league and the union will negotiate to impasse in March 2011, and the league then will invoke a provision of federal labor law that allows the owners to impose new rules relating to wages and other terms of employment. Under federal labor law, the rules must be substantially similar to the last offer made by the league.
The union could then strike. The more likely outcome is that NFLPA would decertify and sue the league for violations of the same antitrust laws at issue in the American Needle case. That’s why the union has been writing editorials for guys like Drew Brees in connection with the American Needle case, and it’s why NFL general counsel Jeff Pash tiptoed around my recent questions regarding whether the league believes it’s a “single entity” for labor purposes.
If Cornwell is right — and we’ve got a feeling he is — it means that the threat of a lockout will be used by the league to get the union to accept that final offer in March 2011. Then, if the final offer is rejected, the owners will simply implement the new rules and hunker down for the legal challenge, with the first argument undoubtedly being that the NFL is a single entity that cannot violate the antitrust laws via its 32 franchises.
UPDATE: Reached for comment by phone, NFLPA assistant executive director for external affairs George Attalah said that Cornwell’s take is an “interesting perspective.” Added Attalah, “We read it, we pay attention to what everybody writes about these issues. We think it’s interesting. . . . We’re still preparing our players for the worst on one hand but we want to come to the table in good faith on the other.”