Union Decertifies; League Locks Out Players

The labor battle between the NFL and the players took a turn for the worse yesterday.

As you have no doubt heard by now, the worst case scenario for NFL fans came to pass yesterday at around 5pm EST when talks broke down between the NFL and NFLPA. The union decertified, becoming a trade association in the process, enabling them to sue the league, an effort which will include many high-profile players being called as plaintiffs, lead by Tom Brady. The NFL has responded, as expected, by locking the players out.

Statements from both sides below.

From the NFL:

The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process.  Unfortunately, the players’ union notified our office at 4pm ET on Friday that it had “decertified” and walked away from mediation and collective bargaining 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.

Since June of 2009, 21 months ago, the NFL clubs have made numerous comprehensive, detailed proposals and counter-proposals; negotiated in dozens of formal sessions and smaller group meetings; and engaged in a series of intensive negotiating sessions over the past three weeks under the auspices of George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. We have reaffirmed to Director Cohen our commitment to the federal mediation process until an agreement is reached.

The goals of the NFL clubs have been clear from the start. The current CBA is flawed in numerous respects, and the system must be improved to ensure continued growth and innovation and a better future for the NFL, the players, and the fans.

The clubs are willing to make many changes proposed by the union, and they have modified their economic proposals in numerous respects. We need an agreement that – when looking back two, four or 10 years from now – both sides will recognize as fair, smart, good for the game, and good for all involved, including players, fans, and clubs.

Regrettably, the union’s leadership has walked out and is refusing to participate in collective bargaining. The union has insisted on a continuation of an unsustainable status quo rather than agreeing to reasonable adjustments that reflect new economic realities we all have experienced. The status quo would also mean no improvements for retired players, too much money to a handful of rookies, and no changes to improve our drug programs.

The union’s abandonment of bargaining has forced the clubs to take action they very much wanted to avoid. At the recommendation of the Management Council Executive Committee under the authority it has been delegated by the clubs, the league has informed the union that it is taking the difficult but necessary step of exercising its right under federal labor law to impose a lockout of the union. The clubs are committed to continuing to negotiate until an agreement is reached, and will gladly continue to work with the FMCS.

The clubs believe that this step is the most effective way to accelerate efforts to reach a new agreement without disruption to the 2011 season.  The clubs want to continue negotiating intensively to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible. Our goal is finding common ground and resolving the issues with the union. That is why we ask the union to resume negotiations with the federal mediator. The negative consequences for the players and clubs will continue to escalate the longer it takes to reach an agreement.

Our message to the fans is this: We know that you are not interested in any disruption to your enjoyment of the NFL. We know that you want football. You will have football. This will be resolved. Our mission is to do so as soon as possible and put in place with the players an improved collective bargaining agreement that builds on our past success and makes the future of football and the NFL even better – for the teams, players, and fans.

We have great respect for the fans. We have great respect for our players. We have great respect for the game and the tradition of the NFL. We will do everything that we reasonably can to ensure that everyone’s attention returns to the football field as soon as possible.

From the players association:

This has been a long and arduous process. Many of our players are tired. I am tired. We have worked hard as a player leadership for two years to prevent this moment.

To the fans, we are sorry it came to this today. You deserve better. I am truly sorry. The players are sorry. Our players – YOUR players – left everything they had at the table. I have asked them for two years to commit themselves to this process. I have asked them as businessmen in the business of football to commit to leading their teammates through this process. I have asked them to leave their families, be at every meeting, review every document and engage in every part of negotiations. They exceeded every expectation. They should be proud and hold their heads high for their leadership.

I want to thank all of you that have supported our players from the beginning, who took the time to understand the issues related to the business of our game and will remain a part of our family. These teams are your teams, from Steeler nation to the 12th man in Seattle.

As businessmen, we asked the owners two years ago to consider two basic tenets to getting a fair deal: financial transparency and the health and safety of our players. Financial transparency would help us reach a compromise. Even until the last moment, we were rebutted. And as for health and safety, that’s a non-negotiable issue. To our players, I will not ever yield on this point. There is no price tag for your arms, legs, backs, necks, shoulders and brains.

To our forefathers: Radovich, White, Mackey, McNeil, Duerson and Powell; I want you to know that the torch has been passed to Brady, Brees, Manning, Vrabel, Umenyiora, Leber, Mankins, Robison, Jackson, and a brave young Aggie prospect named Von Miller. The measure of our Association is the men and their families who fight for the only thing they can bestow to each other: a better game, a safer game and a recognition from those who own for common respect.

This is the only inheritance we can provide to the men who play, their families and those who have served before and after us.

And Demaurice Smith's statement to the press:

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Comments (27)

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Tarynfor 12's picture

March 12, 2011 at 10:15 am

The saddist part,after reading both statements,that both issue an endearing sentiment about and for the fans.

The owners say they offered the world and the players want the universe.The players say the want a piece of the pie and the owners want only to offer crumbs.

I as a fan would like to see some of the actual offerings and some of the whats being refused.

After all,aren't we the ones who make the ability to have offers and refusals possible.

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jeremy's picture

March 12, 2011 at 02:28 pm

The final owner proposal has been released. You can read it on NFP. Personally, I thought it looked pretty lucrative.

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ZeroTolerance's picture

March 12, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Pathetic and sad.

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Bearmeat's picture

March 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Both parties suck. I (and everyone else on CHTV) would love to have their dilemma: "How do we split up 10b dollars?"
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Idiots.

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WoodyG's picture

March 12, 2011 at 01:04 pm

Settle it next week, next month or even in late August ...... As long as the settlement allows a small-market club such as the Pack to compete on a level playing field for the long term ...... If the NFL goes the way of MLB, I'm gone .....

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Josh's picture

March 12, 2011 at 01:14 pm

I didn't mind ditching MLB, I didn't mind ditching NBA, I didn't mind ditching NHL. I don't mind skipping NCAA. I won't miss the NFL.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

March 12, 2011 at 02:04 pm

No suprise. Late summer something will probably get done, just sucks we don't get the offseason coverage. I mean I watch total access every day, propably won't till something gets done. I want to hear about free agency, offseason workouts and trades, not this shit.

GBP 4 LIFE

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Wgbeethree's picture

March 12, 2011 at 04:00 pm

F..k the players. The Packers only profited 10 million dollars last year. Think about that. There are DOZENS of players who profited more than arguably the most storied franchise in the NFL who sell out every single game. There are no doubt businesses in your home town that profited much more than the Green Bay frickin' Packers. That is crazy. PT gave the players a gift before he retired because he want to avoid a work stoppage at all cost. It was completely unsustainable. Tell every single player they have a week to "cross the picket line" ,agree to a reasonable labor agreement, or face a lifetime ban from the NFL. They can go to Canada or play in the UFL or AFL if they want. The game may suffer for a couple years if any of the players were dumb enough not to but it would be back to "normal" in 5 years tops and you could make sure the NFL can stay a sustainable BUSINESS and a level playing field for all the teams for decades.
I really like some of the players on the Packers but make no mistake about it, if none of them ever played another down for the Packers and the team continued to play games I could get over it really easily.

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Jim's picture

March 13, 2011 at 07:22 am

Apparently the Packers made numerous bad investments in property. Losing around 75 million, which has nothing to do with players. I'm not sold on either side, but that's something that should be taken into account when throwing around that 10 million #.

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PackerAaron's picture

March 13, 2011 at 11:47 am

They did't lose $75 million investing in property. They lost $75 million in investments. Most people and organizations suffered big hits to their portfolios after the recession hit.

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Jim's picture

March 13, 2011 at 05:50 pm

Sorry, investments in general. But the NFL is making $ hand over fist. If the Packers MADE 75 million in investments, I doubt the teams would pass along the cash. So to tell players they have to take a pay cut due to $ money lost in outside investments is nuts. The money is there, they're trying to decide how to split up the revenue made by the NFL. They're not trying to decide how to split up each clubs outside earnings. So to use the argument that the Packers only made 10 million is a bit misleading..

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ohenry78's picture

March 12, 2011 at 04:13 pm

What on earth is Tom Brady going to testify about in a case against the NFL? "Yes, Judge, the Patriots only paid me $26 million in 2010. Clearly, they are a monopolistic group of thugs hellbent on taking advantage of me for the least amount of compensation possible. I feel I could make more on the open market if not for the monopoly the have on my job".

I really used to be on the Players side in thise case. I am definitely a pro-union type of guy in general. But DeMaurice Smith is really irritating me. It seems like the NFL offered a pretty good package, and he hasn't offered up any reason for their lack of acceptance.

I was also put off by his recent comments where he "dared" someone to prove that NFL teams are falling on hard times. Did he not look at the Packers' books when they opened their finances? They've been losing more and more profit for a number of years now. Between the economy and inflating player salaries, NFL teams are clearly experiencing a reduction in profits across the board, even if it isn't "hard times", relativly speaking.

/rant

Anyhow, I just hope they get something done soon. Like Andrew Brandt said on Twitter yesterday, "The dichotomy of Japanese people fighting for their lives while NFL owners and players fight for their share of $9 billion is striking." Watching these guys struggle to slice up such a huge pie is too depressing. All I want is a Packers Superbowl repeat, is that too much to ask?

/Edit -- linkage for Tom Brady's salary last year: http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2010/09/17/in-2010-tom-brady-brings...

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Oppy's picture

March 12, 2011 at 10:53 pm

Well, the big thing about the Packers is that while profits were down, revenue was actually up, if I remember correctly.

You have to look at expenditures. Yes, player salaries were up, but what else did the Packers spend on in 2009?

Don't get me wrong, I agree with Wgbeethree (and have actually stated before myself)on the point that the NFL is one of the few businesses, if not the only business, where it is not uncommon for the employees to make near or even more than the owner in a given year. Granted, the players aren't taking the financial risk the owners are.. haha, I can't even say that with a straight face, if you're not a complete moron you're going to turn a profit in the NFL.

I can't say I feel badly for the players; they are extremely well paid, even the minimum salary guys. But I don't understand why the owners don't just open the freakin' books up. I understand that's not how any regular business works, but then again, the NFL isn't a regular business, now is it?

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MadMan's picture

March 12, 2011 at 04:22 pm

I'm with you WoodyG and Josh. I gave up watching MLB and the NBA a long time ago. The players just ruined those leagues. I came back to the NFL after the last strike but I will not come back if they go nuclear with this strike.

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FITZCORE1252's picture

March 12, 2011 at 06:06 pm

I would like to be able to say I wouldn't come back either. Truth is, I'm an NFL junkie, I'd be crawling back immediately.

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Jack's picture

March 13, 2011 at 08:02 pm

I almost got physically ill when I read Aaron Rodgers' tweet that read: UNITY.

Give me a break. I have no sympathy for the players after their thug reprsentative, DeMaurice Obama-Smith, rejected what looked like a very generous offer by the NFL on Friday afternoon.

I hope the NFL's lockout holds. Screw the players.

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ZeroTolerance's picture

March 12, 2011 at 04:39 pm

Let me see if I understand this correctly. Last year's salary cap was on the order of $140M. Operating costs including coaches, football and stadium staff, etc. must be an additional $35M (TT and MM accounting for at least $7M of this). This equates to approximately $175M, at least. And the Packers MADE $10M. This is a 5.7% profit on investment. I can think of many other ways to make more that 5.7%, so why own a team?

Plus, I too have stopped watching MLB and the thug NBA. I'd hate to lose football (NFL), but at my age if the season is interupted, I'll find something else to do.

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Cole's picture

March 12, 2011 at 06:21 pm

The packers may be only making 10M a year, that doesn't mean other teams aren't making more. Pack is in the smallest market in the country.

If the owners aren't making anything, why won't they open their books?

Makes no sense, except that its obvious that they are hiding something.

But I agree that D. Smith is an ass clown.

The players better be careful because the owners are business owners for a reason--they're much better at business--than the average person. It's only a matter of time until they turn the public against the players with superior PR.

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jeremy's picture

March 12, 2011 at 04:47 pm

When Players run the show you get the Miami Heat.

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ZeroTolerance's picture

March 12, 2011 at 04:50 pm

The best short line comment ever.

Do you hear us, Aaron 'UNITY' Rodgers?

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Mark's picture

March 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

Everyone seems to take one side or the other and wring their hands that this step of decertification and lock-out have occurred. Well, if there isn't sufficient trust for collective bargaining to lead to any resolution then some third party adults need to get involved in this process. What we have in Pro football today is a situation where a piss poor commissioner (and ownership that empowers him) is unwilling or unable to provide an attractive and competitive product while drawing and enforceing the lines and benefits that will properly protect players playing a potentially violent sport, and players who are encouraged to optomize the one security element they are allowed to influence by this system, money! The result is this impass.

The situation where players retire from successful careers to lives of neuro-mental and physical illness wouldn't be tollerated in any other kind of employment and - even with the magnitude of compensation isn't what the players' collectively want. I don't think the owners can individually exercise the right levels of judgement to create a system where footbal is appropriately structured to stay exciting, competitive, and safer than it is. the commissioner isn't sufficiently empowered or possibl knowledgeable to manage the situation to both sides satisfaction. so now some third parties will need to try to sort all this out. It may take a while......

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aussiepacker's picture

March 12, 2011 at 11:36 pm

Maybe we will have to start a league of replacement players like the movie with keanu reeves as our quarterback?

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S Bot's picture

March 13, 2011 at 10:08 am

Yesterday I listened to a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview with George Martin, a former NFLPA Executive Director who walked a picket line for 57 days, went through decertification and legal battles, etc. He’s also the current President of the NFL Alumni Association. Neither DeMaurice Smith nor anybody else from the NFLPA has talked to him about anything for over a year despite his offers of assistance and requests for information. He has not been made privy to any details regarding any veterans’ provisions in what the NFL offered, not even any details about the proposed deal to take the savings from the proposed rookie salary schedule and give them to the vets.

There’s your 2011 NFLPA.

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S Bot's picture

March 13, 2011 at 02:30 pm

Followup, DeMaurice Smith gets bitchslapped: http://nfllabor.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/nflaaletter.pdf

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Oppy's picture

March 13, 2011 at 03:52 pm

I'm not taking sides here, but I fail to see how this letter equates to a "bitchslap" for DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA.

Frankly, what a few members of congress think about how the NFLPA conducts its business means nothing. I understand Mr. Martin feeling left out of the process, and I understand that his viewpoints and experience may or may not be of use to the current NFLPA's leadership.

But just because he's being left out of the loop, and just because some members of congress are suggesting he be linked in, doesn't mean by a long shot that the current NFLPA's leadership is dropping the ball on or neglecting retired players' issues.

The only thing that can be said with certainty is that they obviously don't feel they need to consult with Martin, which is, like it or not, their prerogative.

Is there more to the story than just Martin being left out of the planning process? Has Martin pointed towards known plans for the future CBA which he finds to be lacking for the retired players? More information is needed, here.

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S Bot's picture

March 13, 2011 at 04:12 pm

Martin hasn't even been informed of the details of whatever the league offered despite requesting the information.

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JackieTreehorn's picture

March 13, 2011 at 08:24 pm

I don't think either side is completely without fault here, but what I don't understand is the full throated support of the owners by some. These are not brave entrepreneurs who built their business from the ground up many inherited their team or the money they bought it with. They also enjoy the benefits of tax payers money to build their stadiums. Sure Tom Brady makes a lot of money but he also has a skill set that maybe 10 people in the world have, at most. Take any slob of the street and give him a nfl franchise and he will be a billionaire in 20 years. Even if they are only making $10 million a year, which i don't believe for a second, that doesn't seem so bad.

If anything it is a detriment to a have a hands on owner (think Washington, Oakland, and Dallas). The best owners put others in charge and stay out of it (Pitsburg, New England).

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