NFL Labor Talks: Will Union Decertification Backfire for Players?

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IMarch 1, 2011

DALLAS, TX - FEBRUARY 03:  NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith speaks during the NFL Players Association press conference at the Super Bowl XLV media center on February 3, 2011 in Dallas, Texas. The Green Bay Packers will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The NFLPA may cease to exist by the end of the week in a bargaining tactic that could backfire for the players in ways they are not anticipating.

The current collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners expires at midnight on March 4, meaning the owners can lock the players out at that time.

Decertification would be a way to avoid the first lockout in league history, but that will not solve the problems that exist between the owners and the players. In an attempt to thwart the owners objective, the players will be giving the owners more opportunity to not only "win" this battle, but put the players in such a bad position it will take them decades to bargain back to anywhere near the level of profit-sharing they enjoy now.

Right now the profit split between the players and the owners is unsustainable from the owners perspective, and they opted out of the deal. This is the heart of the argument. The players think the owners are exaggerating and are not willing to give up as much money as the owners want them to.

With decertification, though, the players are not going to get what they want.

While decertification could prevent a lockout, it will open the floodgates for antitrust lawsuits and the opportunity for owners to dictate terms until the situation is resolved. There is the chance the owners lose the antitrust lawsuits, but there is no history to suggest the players will come out winners even in that situation.

Right now it is all theory. The future is unknown, all we can do is speculate.

While the players say they want to play, if the union no longer exists, the owners theoretically can structure the offseason any way they want.

A "What It All Means" article circulated the Internet on Monday, but it failed to answer several key questions.

For example, while there has been no official legal opinion on the matter, will there be anything in place to prevent owners from holding as many minicamps as they want and demanding any player who wants to be part of the 2011 team to show up or lose their jobs?

Once again, this is in theory, but it also is a way to purge rosters of players with unfavorable contracts. You don't show up for minicamp? Your contract is terminated and now there is no union to fight for your cause. Goodbye Albert Haynesworth and like players.

A piece posted on last month stated, "If decertfication happens, the league then would be compelled to craft across-the-board rules regarding free agency, the draft, and player salaries.  The union would likely respond by filing an antitrust lawsuit, arguing that the league consists of 32 separate businesses that cannot work together to place common limits on its workers."

The full piece can be read here.

The players decertified in 1989 as a way of fighting the owners before reforming the union in 1993 with the rise of free agency.

The owners are (rightly) claiming unfair labor tactics with the current decertification threat, and you can yell at the owners all you want about not opening the books but they have a point.

If the players keep abandoning the union when it is not convenient to have one, then there is no reason for the federal mediators and judges to side with the players.

This should not be construed as a pro-owner piece because the owners are the ones who agreed to this deal in 2006. The owners have resisted negotiating as much as the players have over the last year, and it is the owners decision to lock the players out.

At the end of the day, the owners have the money. It is the Golden Rule: He who has the gold, makes the rules.

No one will win if the 2011 season is lost, but the players stand to lose more than the owners. Decertifying and filing antitrust lawsuits will not change that.