By Tom E. Curran
Stupidity reigns.The NFL Players Association, unhappy with the league's refusal to showthe last 10 years of financial records to prove their profits, folded their association today. The move - called decertification - means the NFLPA will no longer collectively bargain with the league. Instead, each NFL players is an individual contractor. As such, they can now legally demand a level of freedom the NFL didn't afford them when they were part of an association.Franchise tags restricting movement? Salary caps? NFL Draft? Puh. Unconstitutional. As an association, the players agreed to accept some things that were against fair trade practices as long as the NFLPA and the NFL collectivelybargained in good faith. Now that the union has decertified, individual players can take the NFL to court challenging that the NFL is and has been in violation of antitrust laws. Major League Baseball has an antitrust exemption. The NFL does not. Players like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Logan Mankins and Mike Vrabel have all agreed to be plaintiffs against the NFL in court. Judge David Doty in Minneapolis has jurisdiction over the NFL and NFLPA's battle. Historically, he's ruled in favor of the players. What now? The collective bargaining agreement and all the rules governing the league expired Friday night at midnight. When that happened, the owners - who are the ones demanding a change tothe current system- locked out the players. The players will maintain that they are ready to work as independent contractors for the agreed-upon wages. The NFLwill charge that the decertification is a sham - as it did in a statement Friday afternoon - and the players are just trying to expose the owners to an antitrust lawsuit. They will try to block decertification and accuse the players of trying to get the owners into court. The players will argue that they can't be locked out. That they have a right to work and that the NFL teams are executing a group boycott of the players. Damages in an antitrust lawsuit are "trebled" meaning they are multiplied by three. All these charges and arguments will land in front of Doty and the National Labor Relations Board. A couple of notes. You'll hear the owners argue and allege that the players bargained in bad faith. That they want litigation. That their goal all along was decertification. That's the NFL's way of trying to block the NFLPA's decertification. There is a chance that the courts can rule that the players must return to work under the "last, best offer" or under the rules of the final year of the last CBA. In short, a lot of different things can happen that - frankly - I'm not as up-to-date on as I would have been if I studied labor law. Do me a favor - look at thisto get the lowdown on decertification. Check this for all the possibilities of what comes next.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran
By Tom E. Curran