Dire news from the Washington D.C. area for NFL fans. Multiple online reports suggest that tomorrow's final mediation session will be ineffectual, if only a formality, and that a certification move by the union and a player lockout by the league owners will begin tomorrow, Thursday March 3.
CNN/Sports Illustrated's Don Banks, on site at negotiations where a host of NFL owners joined the mediated talks, reported via the social networking site Twitter Wednesday afternoon:
"Whatever is minutely shy of being a fait accompli, that's what union decertification and league lockout plans are at this late date... This owners meeting will effectively end tonight, it appears, and union will likely move to decertify Thursday afternoon. Lockout to follow.
"All of which makes Thursday's planned mediation session just an exercise in shadow boxing.... I know NFL fans out there want some sign of hope, but I think this one's all over but the suing."
Both sides face no hard deadline that they can't mutually postpone, the decision to lock out would be a decisive action by the league owners.
Owners were yesterday dealt a significant blow when their ersatz lockout insurance was ruled in violation of the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement by US District Judge David S. Doty, who sided with the players in civil court. The NFL owners had negotiated clauses for continued income from television and cellphone contracts even if games were canceled in 2011, clauses that that TV networks didn't want and that Doty ruled reduced the possible revenue available in the years before the CBA expired. The league is expected to appeal the decision, which was itself reversed a lower court's opinion, a process that could drag on for months.
With at least a temporary block on their income guaranteed in the event of canceled games this fall, the league may decide to compromise. Or they may decide to wait out a higher courts' decision and lock the players out in the mean time.
At this time, while a larger meeting of NFL owners has ended without action or comment, the smaller group of the NFL Owners Executive Labor committee is still meeting.
The owners on that committee are: Pat Bowlen of the Denver Broncos, Mike Brown of Cincinnati Bengals, Clark Hunt of the Kansas City Chiefs, Jerry Jones of the Dallas Cowboys, Bob Kraft of the New England Patriots, John Mara of the New York Giants, Mark Murphy of the Green Bay Packers, Jerry Richardson of the Carolina Panthers, Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Dean Spanos of the San Diego Chargers.
With no small hint of sarcasm, Saints QB Drew Brees, in Washington DC representing the Players Union, wrote this on his twitter account: "We the NFL Players are in DC ready to get a deal done, just in case anyone wants to know"