Do Not Panic: Decertification Does Not Mean No Football

By now you’ve probably heard the NFL Players Association has filed to decertify, meaning there will no longer be a players association. However, if you read my piece here last week on the possible scenarios going forward, you know it does not mean there will be no football.

Unless another extension was reached today, the NFLPA had to file a petition to decertify by 5:00 p.m. in order to be able to immediately file an antitrust lawsuit if the NFL institutes a lockout. According to the recently-expired CBA, if the NFLPA waited until after the expiration to decertify, they would have to wait six months to institute an antitrust lawsuit (the real reason for decertifying). Although the CBA is no longer governing league activity, the sides agreed when they negotiated the last CBA that some provisions, like the one just mentioned, would survive expiration.

So what does decertification really mean? It simply means there is no longer a players association. The NFLPA decertified in 1989 in order to bring an antitrust case and did not reform again until 1993. For those who were around back then, you know that decertification for that period did not mean there was no football being played.

If the NFL does not lock the players out, they can institute their “last and best offer.” This is where the NFL owners would unilaterally implement the last offer they gave the players association before reaching an impasse. Football would be played while the NFL and NFLPA battled out an antitrust case in court.

Don’t think that the players did this lightly. Without a players association to collectively bargain, the players will lose all their collectively bargained rights such as medical insurance and their pension. Group licensing rights the NFLPA controlled are also now up in the air.

Obviously the players are feeling emboldened by Judge Doty’s decision on the “lockout clauses” in the league’s television contracts. They must feel pretty strongly that they can make a solid case in court in order to make this move. I can’t say I disagree with them.

Follow Kristi on Twitter @SportsBizMiss.

This article offers the personal observations of Kristi Dosh, and does not represent the views of her law firm or its clients. Any information contained herein does not constitute legal advice. Consult your own attorney for legal advice on these matters.


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  • Jim
    March 12, 2011

    Kristi – how much do you think decertification – and an anti-trust case – was the goal of the NFLPA all along? Personally, I have thought for several months that DeMaurice Smith wanted to make a name for himself and that is what would be ‘driving the train’.

    Keep up the good sports biz work!