Well, now things are about to get ugly.
The NFLPA announced Friday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET that they have decertified, following an ultimatum issued by NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith. This is expected to lead to a lockout after the current collective bargaining agreement expires at midnight.
So what does it all mean?
The reality is that no one knows. Even the men that were inside the room negotiating for the last two weeks.
NFL lead negotiator was asked Friday afternoon if a lockout would start at midnight. He didn’t even answer that question and a source has told PFT that they have started to prepare in case free agency starts at midnight. Seriously.
The battle between the two sides is apparently headed to the courtroom, which is partly uncharted territory. The NFL will try to say that decertification by the union is a sham. The Union will try to get a judge to open the financial records of NFL teams, after the owners refused to “open the books” on Friday.
The union said they asked the league to release ten years worth of audited financial statements on Friday or they would decertify.
The NFL, as expected, did not comply. The NFLPA will now move forward as “a trade association,” whatever that means.
Both sides seemed to expect to get to this point, yet it’s still jarring and depressing for NFL fans. It’s especially frustrating because there was reportedly significant progress at the negotiating table on Friday, but negotiations are basically going to end for now.
“No constructive purpose would be served to requesting parties to continue mediation,” said Federal Mediator George Cohen said.
Translation: Both sides are at fault here.
You just wouldn’t know by listening to them after the fact. The NFL and NFLPA wasted no time after decertification to start playing the blame game.
The owners claim that the players’ side did not truly negotiate and they were determined to take things to court. The league says they were willing to defer any 18-game seasons and offered many concessions. The union says the owners are lying.
Both sides continue to jostle for position in these increasingly confusing times, trying to win the public relations battle.
Surely they know they are both losing, as are all NFL fans.
UPDATE: Here’s the statement from the organization formerly known as the NFLPA:
“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.”
UPDATE III: NFL stars Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees all filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL to prevent a lockout, as expected.