This week all eyes and ears will be on the NFL labor talks. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) expires Thursday at midnight. A union offer of a 50/50 split of total revenue to the owners was rejected and talks stalled. A federal mediator was brought in to try and smooth things over. That has helped to some extent, but differences remain.
The owners are steering the NFL brand down a destructive road, a place that it has never been before. We are on the verge of a lockout, the first in league history. The union’s only option to get any leverage is to decertify, which would block the lockout and allow football to continue. Reports say that is exactly what will happen this week
What does decertification mean? As the Sports Business Journal points out, the process that the NFLPA would use technically is known as a “disclaimer of interest” by union leadership. Basically, the folks who are paid to run the union would walk away, making the union not a union any longer.
However, decertifying is a gun that may have only one bullet. The union pulled the maneuver once before before reformulating. One would expect the NFLPA to open up for business once again when a new agreement is reached.
I mentioned that the decertification gun may only have one bullet, and here’s why. Reports indicate that decertification won’t make a difference to the owners. They reportedly are planning to try to impose a lockout even if the players decertify (according to Daniel Kaplan and Liz Mullen of Sports Business Journal).
“If the union decertifies, it is not really correct to call it a ‘lockout,'” Gary Roberts, a former outside counsel for the league told Sports Business Journal. “As soon as you don’t have a union, it’s an employer ceasing operations.” At that point, it wouldn’t be a lockout. It would be the NFL struggling to maintain normal day to day business operations.
What happens if the union doesn’t decertify by the time the deadline hits? If that’s what happens I think both sides extend the date and continue to try and hammer out a new deal (that is if they are close and both sides see an agreement within reach). If not it’s simple. The owners will close their doors to the players. That means coaches can’t have any contact with players. Players will lose money and benefits.
As the deadline for a new deal draws closer, let’s look at the big issues one more time:
The owners won’t open the books to the NFLPA or a third party independent CPA firm, despite claiming increased costs have made it a bad deal. Other issues that are still on the table include percentage of total football revenue, salary cap, player cost, the proposed 18-game schedule and a rookie wage scale.
DeMaurice Smith offered the 50/50 split, but will have to drop it to at least 48 percent to get a new agreement. Other concerns include total revenue sharing, better health benefits beyond five years and the independent appeals process when it comes to conduct and drug reviews.
These next few days in my opinion are just window dressing. Both sides are still miles apart. Gentlemen, my advice to you would be to check your egos at the front door. We understand that revenue is the bottom line, but this great game of football, one that is currently making over $9 billion a year in today’s economy is still a pretty good business model.
The bottom line, though, is this. There is no deal coming.