Leading the way for the first work stoppage in the National Football League since 1987, the NFL Players Association filed paperwork to decertify today after the extended labor talks failed.
The Players Association and NFL owners remained too far apart in the end to even agree to another extension, which would have allowed for further negotiations before a mediator.
“We met with the owners until about 4 o’clock today,” union head DeMaurice Smith said outside the mediator’s office. “We discussed a proposal they had presented. At this time, significant differences continue to remain. We informed the owners that... if there was going to be a request for an extension, that we asked for 10 years of audited financial information to accompany that extension.”
"The NFL Players Association announced today 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 union said in a statement.
The move by the player's association to decertify, clears the way for players to file antitrust lawsuits against the league and ask for an injunction to block the league from locking out the players.
Following the decertification, NFL quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees (along with seven other NFL players) became the first high-profile NFL players to file a class-action lawsuit before the U.S. District Court.
Also named in the complaint are Vincent Jackson (San Diego Chargers), Ben Leber and Brian Robison (Minnesota Vikings), Logan Mankins (New England Patriots), Osi Umenyiora (New York Giants), Mike Vrabel (Kansas City Chiefs) and Texas A&M University linebacker Von Miller, who is entered in this year's draft.
In the injunction, the players state that the league and its teams "have jointly agreed and conspired to deny plaintiffs the ability to provide and/or market their services."
The 52-page lawsuit invokes the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust statute from 1890 that limits monopolies and restrictions on commerce. The players claim they were entitled to triple the amount of any damages they've incurred.
Tom Condon, the agent representing Manning and Brees, wrote a statement submitted to the court that a "'lockout' imposed by the NFL, threatens to rob Mr. Brees and Mr. Manning, and all other NFL players, of an entire year, or more, of their brief playing careers, which cannot be recaptured."
"This is especially problematic because of the virtually constant need for NFL players to prove their skill and value on the playing field," said Condon. "Missing a year or more of playing in the NFL can cause the skills of NFL players to become rusty from lack of competition, making it difficult for them to regain the full talents they exhibited prior to the absence from play. This could shorten or even end the careers of NFL players."
Now that the NFLPA has decertified, which side will wind up the eventual winners?
Thanks to the inclusion of the Sherman Act, the stakes for the owners could now be in the hundreds of millions if the U.S. District Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs.
Raising the stakes further, the players included language that would allow players out of their current contracts if they miss even a single paycheck.
If teams "fail to pay any such required payments to any player, that player's contract shall, at the player's option, be declared null and void."
The players would like the case to be handled by Judge David Doty, who has handled NFL Labor negotiations since the early 1990's. The case is currently assigned to U.S. District judge Patrick Schiltz, however that could change.
The National Football League alleges that the case should not be tried before Judge Doty, as they claim he is biased in favor of the players.
A hearing date has yet to be set. Get used to seeing the most prominent NFL stars in action in a courtroom instead of on the field, over the next several months.