The final step in the NFL’s strategy against the union entails locking the players out, thereby depriving the players and the fans of football. The NFLPA’s final step entails decertifying in the hopes of blocking a lockout, thereby ensuring that football will continue, for the players and the fans.
For fans, the union’s strategy is far more appealing.
But it won’t be that easy, especially since the owners reportedly plan to try to impose a lockout even if the players decertify, according to Daniel Kaplan and Liz Mullen of SportsBusiness Journal.
At that point, it wouldn’t be a lockout. It would be the NFL going out of business.
“If the union decertifies, it is not really correct to call it a ‘lockout,’” Gary Roberts, a former outside counsel for the league told SportsBusiness Journal. “As soon as you don’t have a union, it’s an employer ceasing operations.”
Some think that shutting the doors to a non-union work force would amount to an antitrust violation.
The easier path for the league would be to fight decertification as a sham. Two weeks ago, the NFL commenced that process by filing a claim before the National Labor Relations Board that the union isn’t bargaining in good faith because it wants to decertify, wait for the NFL to impose rules on behalf of 32 separate businesses, and file an antitrust lawsuit attacking those rules.
As SportsBusiness Journal points out, the process that the NFLPA would use technically is known as a “disclaimer of interest” by union leadership. Basically, the folks paid to run the union would walk away, making the union not a union any longer. It’s a gun that may have only one bullet, however; the fact that the union pulled the maneuver in the late 1980s before reformulating after the antitrust lawsuit supports a conclusion that union leadership is walking away for tactical reasons only, and that they fully intend to resume their duties once a new labor deal is finalized.
And . . . now you can wake up.