Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lockout Looming; NFL and NFLPA Agree to 24-Hour CBA Extension


In an attempt to come to a new agreement without the current collective bargaining agreement expiring, the NFL and NFLPA agreed to a last minute temporary extension on Thursday that will last an additional 24 hours.  The current CBA was set to expire at 11:59PM Thursday night, but will now expire at the same time on Friday, March 4th.

The league and player's association have been meeting daily before a federal mediator to help bring the two sides to an amicable compromise on the core issues that they have been so far apart on since the hard negotiations have begun.  Each side decided today that an extension should be set to allow one more day of negotiations between the parties.


At face value, the news of a 24-hour extension between the NFL and NFLPA sounds promising for a new CBA to be agreed to by March 4th.  It is an indication that the sides are close enough to an agreement on all major issues to think that a new agreement can be salvaged before a lockout takes place at the expiration of the current deal's extension.  But don't let this news encourage you to start putting the celebratory champagne on ice.  Though it was a last ditch attempt to come up with an agreement before a lockout occurs, the sides are still too far apart to realistically come to an agreement in the next 24 hours.  Plan on a lockout happening after tomorrow night's deadline.  A deal in the next day would be nothing short of a miracle.

The sides likely would not have even gotten this close in the process if not for a striking blow to the NFL just a few days ago.  In a legal hearing between the two parties before the Honorable Judge David S. Doty in Minneapolis, MN, Doty ruled that the NFL was in breach of the current CBA when they accepted less money from television contracts a year ago to assure themselves accessibility to what the NFLPA has been calling a lockout "war chest" of money that the NFL could draw upon during a lockout to sustain expenses even if football was not being played in the fall.

The part fo the CBA that Judge Doty says was breached is a clause that claims that the NFL must seek television contracts that seek the "maximum" financial value.  The NFL's acceptance of less than the maximum value televsion contracts to ensure upfront money that would give them leverage during a lockout is a clear breach of the clause.  Doty had to overrule a previous ruling by a lower magisterate that stated the NFL had a right to accept those terms.

Doty's ruling undermined much of the NFL's leverage against the NFLPA because it is expected that not only will Doty rule that the NFL will not be allowed to access the $4 Billion they garnered from the television contracts, but that they may be subject to monetary damages owed to the NFLPA for breaching the contract in the process.  This helped move negotiations along because without it, the NFLPA would be at such a disadvantage, the NFL would have little reason to compromise on any of the issues.  Doty's ruling has made for a much more even playing field.  If games are missed, the NFL, just like the NFLPA won't have future contract money to lean on when revenue isn't being generated.

What to expect: Though it was a valiant effort upon the NFL and NFLPA to extend the negotiations another 24 hours, but it is too little-too late.  An agreement will not be in place by the expiration and we will officially have the first work stoppage in the NFL since 1987.  Another key move to watch for will be the NFLPA legally decertifying themselves as a union, withdrawing their right to collectively bargain with the NFL, but gives the 1,800 players of the NFL the individual right to file an suit against the NFL for anti-trust action.  NFL superstars, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady have been confirmed named plaintiffs in a potential anti-trust suit against the NFL.  It was anti-trust action in 1993, most notably by the late and legendary Reggie White that ended labor disputes between the NFL and NFLPA in '93.

It's still looking like this dispute will last into and through the summer months.  If no agreement is met by midnight, the night of March 4th, negotiations will turn cold for a while and a lockout will ensue.  For how long?  We just don't know.

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