With fans celebrating the return of the NFL season, the NFLPA is providing us all with regular reminders that the league and the players are on a collision course for a potential work stoppage.
But the news this time is good, at least for the fans.
The union believes that the owners will lock the players out and/or unilaterally impose the league’s last, best offer as new work rules. And so the NFLPA reportedly is laying the foundation for a move that would set the stage for another class-action antitrust lawsuit, and that necessarily would allow football to continue, while the lawyers clean up all details.
Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal reports that all players will
be asked to vote to authorize
decertification. Chris Mortensen of ESPN reports that the Saints already
have voted unanimously to allow decertification.
Decertification would be used either to block a lockout or to combat the unilateral imposition of work rules by the league. Put simply, if the NFLPA decertifies, the league would then be required to promulgate player acquisition and retention rules on an across-the-board basis. The union then would sue the league, arguing that the imposition of standard rules regarding player acquisition and retention among 32 different businesses constitutes a violation of antitrust laws.
The union applied the same approach after the failed strike of 1987. And the union’s ability to at least attempt the move was validated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this year in the American Needle case. Though the lengthy written opinion of the Court contains language suggesting that the NFL could defeat an antritust challenge in the context of labor relations, the outcome preserves the ability of the union to pursue the antitrust route.
Still, the move likely would prevent a work stoppage. And if the NFL were to attack the move by calling it a sham (Mullen points out the league has done this before), it would be very easy for the union to point out to the fans that they are doing everything they can to ensure that football will continue — and that the NFL is trying to take it away.
Either way, as we get ready to enjoy Week One of the 2010 regular season, this development encourages us that there will be a Week One in 2011.