WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 11: NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith (3rd L, wearing hat) walks with a group of player representatives as they arrive for labor talks at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 11, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) continue to negotiate a labor dispute as a deadline looms at the end of a seven day extension of talks. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Getty Images)
It's not good news from Friday's final negotiations between the NFL owners and players.
In a conference call with players, NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith said that their plan is to decertify, meaning that the NFLPA will no longer be considered a union. That will free up individual players to sue the owners for antitrust violations.
The talks are still ongoing, so the two sides could come to a last ditch agreement to avoid the lockout/decertification scenario that will inevitably end up in court. But with Smith's comments, avoiding the work stoppage is not likely.
The danger in decertifying is that the owners could attempt to block the decertification by calling it a negotiating tactic. A decertified union also doesn't have the power to argue on behalf of players in areas like suspensions and fines, and benefits like health care, insurance and pension would be suspended. A decertified union also can't regulate agents.
The many things that the players must give up in order to decertify shows just how tense this negotiation over the collective bargaining agreement has become.