On Friday evening, the NFLPA made the decision to decertify in a move that would block the lockout by the owners. I keep getting asked the question by readers and friends what decertification means, so I figured it was worth a post to explain things.
The NFL players initially bonded together and formed a union in an act they hoped would help generate more favorable rights. For instance, by forming a union, they could approach the owners with certain demands and the owners would have to negotiate or lose their players (and risk going with “replacement players” who are inferior in talent). The sides formed an agreement known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement that details how the league will be run. The CBA contains points such as when players can become free agents, whether teams will pay players who get injured, and how long the season is.
I’ve never read the NFL CBA, but several years ago I read the MLB CBA and let me tell you, every possible detail you could imagine is covered. We’re talking everything from meal money on road trips to the way arbitration hearings will go is spelled out.
Anyway, the NFL owners realized that the league was getting extremely popular and generating ridiculous amounts of revenue, and they wanted more of it for themselves. Two years ago they opted out of the CBA, just like A-Rod opted out of his contract with the Yankees to negotiate a more favorable deal.
When the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on a new CBA — the owners wanted to keep before splitting the pie with the players while the players wanted to see evidence they needed the money — the NFLPA took the step to decertify and block the anticipated lockout from the owners.
By decertifying, the players were no longer a union and became a trade association. They filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL — just like the type of suits you read about in history class — that says the owners have a monopoly and were not treating the players fairly. They had to decertify first because the expired CBA prevented them from filing an antitrust suit while they were a union. The suit goes to court where the players will hope for an injunction that will block the lockout by the owners, thereby allowing the season and league business to proceed as usual.
Luckily for the players, their suit will appear in the court of Judge Doty in Minnesota, who has ruled in the players’ favor recently. The hope is that the injunction will force the league to operate as normal and that the courts will rule the players have not been treated fairly. The sides will likely be in litigation for the next year but hopefully the season will continue as usual.
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