March 11, 2011

Owners reject Union's ultimatum; negotiations fail

The NFL has taken their labor dispute to the courts, having utterly failed in mediated negotiations and two extensions.

The NFL Player Association brought to an end two weeks of intense negotiations with an ultimatum to owners: give us 10 years of audited financial reports, or we will decertify to block your lockout. 

Instead of arguing about the tenets of an 18-game season, concussions, drug testing policy, or any of the other football-related issues, it came down to the league's demand for a much larger share of the $9 billion revenue pot, and the union's demand for the owners to bleed out private financial data. 

The owners called the bluff.  The union decertified at the 5pm EST deadline today. 

The fate of the league is now in the hands of lawyers.

Lawyers for the union, putting Drew Brees', Payton Manning's, and Tom Brady's names on the paperwork, will sue the league on antitrust grounds in court, among other things, that the 32-team league cannot act as a single entity and impose a lockout.

The owners will argue in court, among other things, that the union's decertification to become simply a trade union is not a legitimate tactic, since the union voted in advance (during the 2010 season) to decertify and intends to reform as soon as a new CBA is agreed upon.

The union will use the discovery process to try and pry full financial information out of the owners, and may very well end up with 10 years of financials to read while the league sits idle in the fall.

In the end, those in sports journalism will be sick of the legalese that will replace transactions, of the court hearings that will replace minicamps, and in the fall, of the injunctions that replace interceptions.

Meanwhile, the upstart United Football League took advantage of the timing to send the following Twitter message right after the 5pm EST news broke: "For #UFL tickets head over to"

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