At 4:45 p.m., DeMaurice Smith announced to reporters the NFLPA had rejected the owners' most recent offer on a new CBA and the union was demanding 10 years of audited team financial statements by 5 p.m. Friday in order to agree to an extension of the CBA.
The league apparently didn't blink, and Smith and the union followed through with their plan to apply for decertification, having faxed the paperwork to Judge David Doty's office in Minnesota.
"The NFL Players Association 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 said in a statement. "The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the interest of protecting the current and former professional football players."
The union also faxed a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell , informing him of the decision. In addition, NFLPlayers.com and NFLPA.org were shut down, their home pages set to "404 Error" messages that featured a new URL -- www.nfllockout.com.
This is relatively interesting, as the NFL hasn't actually decided to lock out the players yet, though they purportedly need to make a decision before midnight to either impose the last set of rules or lock the players out, the former which might result in free agency beginning right away .
Either way, mediation, for now, has ended.
"The parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held competing positions that separated them on core issues," mediator George Cohen said. "No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."
This means the NFLPA is no longer a union, but rather a trade association made up of many individuals. And it also means there's a strong likelihood the players will file an antitrust suit against the league. In fact, reports are beginning to leak out that the players have already filed suit against the NFL, and included some pretty big names as plaintiffs.
The NFL carried some pretty hefty public relation's spin in a lengthy statement of its own .
No one is happy where we are now," NFL lead negotiator Jeff Pash said. "I think we know where the commitment was. It was a commitment to litigate all along."
A league statement added: "The union left a very good deal on the table."
It said the offer included splitting the difference in the dispute over how much money owners should be given off the top of the league's revenues. Under the expiring CBA, the owners immediately got about $1 billion before dividing the remainder with the players; the owners originally were asking to roughly double that by getting an additional $1 billion up front.
Also in the NFL's offer, according to the league:
- Maintaining the 16 regular-season games and four preseason games for at least two years, with any changes negotiable.
- Instituting a rookie wage scale through which money saved would be paid to veterans and retired players.
- Creating new year-round health and safety rules.
- Establishing a fund for retired players, with $82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years.
- Financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.
Pash also said, surprisingly, that there has been no decision made on whether the league will lock the players out yet or not.
That's interesting from the perspective that no lockout would dramatically change the landscape of what we expect to see come down the pipe, but it also seems unlikely that the owners wouldn't take that stance.
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