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Union rejects NFL labor proposal, then decertifies

WASHINGTON -- The NFL Players Association announced Friday that it has renounced its status as the collective bargaining representative of the players after failing to reach a new labor deal with the league during 16 days of federal mediation.

The NFLPA said it now becomes a professional trade association that supports the interests and rights of current and former players.

NFLPA outside counsel Jim Quinn said Friday that the union also had submitted the necessary paperwork to U.S. District Judge David Doty in Minnesota to file an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of individual players in federal court.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and guard Logan Mankins, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel, Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber and defensive end Brian Robison, and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said at 4:45 p.m. ET -- 15 minutes before the deadline for the union to decertify -- that "significant differences" remained after the league's latest proposal. Smith said the league must agree by 5 p.m. ET to provide 10 years of audited financial documents for the union to agree to a third extension of the CBA deadline.

The union had until that time to decertify -- and did.

"The parties have not achieved an overall agreement," federal mediator George Cohen said, "nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held competing positions that separated them on core issues. No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."

The players' union immediately shut down its websites -- NFLPA.org and NFLPlayers.com. A search for NFLPA.org yielded this message: "Error 404: Football Not Found. Please be patient as we work on resolving this. We are sorry for the inconvenience."

The NFL can impose a lockout of players, if it chooses, after 11:59 p.m. ET, when the CBA officially expires.

"The union left a very good deal on the table," the NFL said in a statement. "It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).

"The union was offered financial disclosure of audited league and club profitability information that is not even shared with the NFL clubs.

"The expanded health and safety rules would include a reduction in offseason programs of five weeks (from 14 to nine) and of OTAs (Organized Team Activities) from 14 to 10; significant reductions in the amount of contact in practices; and other changes."

New York Giants owner John Mara, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in addressing the media after the union decertified.

"The union's position on core economic issues has been, 'Take it or leave it,'" said Mara, who has been at the negotiating table for most of the last week.

NFL general counsel Jeff Pash also reiterated many of the points in the statement sent out by the league and said the owners were on a conference call discussing the NFLPA's request for financial records when the union decided to decertify.

Quinn later denied Pash's version of the details of the offer that was rejected by the union.

Before Friday's meeting, Smith told WJFK-AM that the union was looking for "the exchange of information so we can make a fair deal."

Under the about-to-expire CBA, owners receive an immediate $1 billion to go toward operating expenses before splitting remaining revenues with players. Owners initially tried to add another $1 billion to that, and while they have lowered the up-front figure they want -- at least down to an additional $800 million, according to the union -- Smith has said it's still too much.

The NFL, meanwhile, said the union was offered unprecedented financial data, including some the league doesn't share with its teams.

The CBA originally was supposed to expire last week. The sides agreed to push that deadline to Friday.

The NFL hasn't lost games to a work stoppage since 1987, when a strike shortened the season and some games included nonunion replacement players. The foundation of the current CBA was reached in 1993 by then-Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and union chief Gene Upshaw. It has been extended five times as annual revenues soared above $9 billion, the league expanded to 32 teams and new stadiums were built.

The 2006 contract extension was the final major act for Tagliabue, who then retired, succeeded by Roger Goodell. An opt-out clause for each side was included in that deal, and the owners exercised it in May 2008 -- three months before Upshaw died. Smith replaced Upshaw as union leader in March 2009.

Two months later, Smith wrote Goodell a letter, asking for detailed financial statements from each of the 32 teams and the league as a whole. The NFL offered to turn over other economic data this week, and the NFLPA rejected that proposal, calling the information "utterly meaningless."

NFL Network's Albert Breer and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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