NFL Players’ Union Decertifies: Could There Be No Football Season in 2011?

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DeMaurice Smith, executive director for the NFL Players Association, arrives for negotiations with the NFL involving a federal mediator

Alex Brandon / AP

After a twice-extended deadline — one for a day and another for a week — the NFL and its players’ union have failed to come to an agreement that would stave off a lockout, the first since 1987.

The NFL Players union decertified Friday afternoon, essentially meaning it has ceased to exist, collective bargaining rights are null and void, and individual anti-trust lawsuits may go forward. The collective bargaining agreement between the two sides expires at midnight Friday and after that the league can lock the players out meaning no football activity of any type.

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As late as Friday afternoon DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players Union had said the organization may agree to a third extension of the collective bargaining agreement talks if the league provides 10 years of financial data, the Associated Press reported. But no handshakes took place because “significant differences continue to remain,” he said.

Negotiations had remained contentious between the owners and the athletes over the past seven days with some small victories like a rookie wage scale agreement. But now with the decertification that and other issues must wait until talks restart. The union’s website was taken down, directing viewers to a new site,

The sticking point that the two sides couldn’t get around was the extra $1 billion franchise owners want up front in addition to the $1 billion they already get under the current agreement to pay costs like building stadiums and promoting games. Players get too much of that cash, they say. But the players balk at that saying owners want to increase the number of seasonal games, increasing risk of injury, but decreasing salaries.

On his Twitter feed, New Orleans Saints’ quarterback and NFLPA executive committee member Drew Brees was disappointed by the breakdown in talks.

“Past players sacrificed a great deal to give us what we have now in the NFL, and we will not lay down for a second to give that up,” he wrote. “We have a responsibility and at some point you have to stand up for what is right.”

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