The NFL and the NFLPA resume negotiations with a federal mediator tomorrow, but most observers are in agreement that a settlement does not appear close.And without an agreement before Thursday, the fight is almost certainly going to court.
If they can’t get a deal by Thursday morning, the union is planning to de-certify. Only by doing that, will individual players be able sue to the union in the event of a lockout.
However, a rule in the current CBA says they must de-certify before the Thursday deadline, otherwise they have to wait six months to do so. Since they don’t want to lose that possible option, they will almost certainly go that route on Thursday
However, once they do that, they can’t negotiate anymore (since there’s no union to negotiate with) and then the players have no other option than to go to court. And the league will have choice but to impose a lockout.
In other words … if they think there’s going to be a lockout, then the union will de-certify. But if they de-certify … there will definitely be a lockout.
The bottom line is that right now, both sides think they can get better deal in the courts than they can at the table. The NFL thinks the de-certification ploy, combined with union’s complaints to the NLRB (over the league’s TV contracts), make a strong case for “bad faith” on the part of the union. The league will say that the union intentionally forced a lockout so they could force a court fight.
Unfortunately, the union thinks the same thing. The NFL has refused to open their ledger books, they negotiated a eerily favourable TV contract (implying they wanted a lockout all along), and are generally running an unfair monopoly. The league knows they have the monetary upper hand and have always planned to starve the players out.
We’ll know tomorrow, but every expert seems to think that the sides are just too far apart and the no one is in the mood to blink. The lockout is coming, it’s just a question of how much damage it will do.
Thanks to Andrew Brandt of National Football Post whose Lockout Primers have become essential reading for any football fan.
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