NFL labor blog: The clock runs out, union decertifies

NFL labor blog: The clock runs out, union decertifies
March 11, 2011, 1:03 am
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Thursday, March 10, 2011 7:55 p. m.
Updated Friday, March 11, 2011 4:45 p. m.

By Rich Tandler
A minute-by-minute update of the NFL labor saga as the countdown to the deadlineand a possible end to the NFL business model as we know itticks down. 5:00 p. m.The decertification has happened, according to ESPN.
4:45 p. m.That was odd. De Smith just said that there will be an extension granted of they agree to turn over 10 years of audited financial statements. Not sure why he came out and said that with 15 minutes to go before the deadline. But there you go. He also said that "significant differences" remained.
4:35 p. m.The silence has been deafening over the last 30 minutes. It is hard to say if that's a good sign or a bad sign except that nobody has come out to say that the legal war is on.
4:05 p. m.Kara Henderson of the NFL network first reported definitively that the NFLPA would decertify. Then, minutes later, Henderson's Blackberry went off again and she said that the pause button had been hit, so there may yet be some hope for an agreement.
3:55 p. m.It appears to be over. Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal just tweeted the following:
BREAKING NEWS: nfl players are set leave negotiating and go to court to decertify, source in room saysThat has been the tone of the chatter since Kelli's report an hour ago, this seems to be definitive. We are awaiting an announcement.
3:35 p. m.Seattle guard and player rep Chester Pitts tweets that reports of decertification are "False!" and adds that "Some people have ZERO integrity." His tweet was a comment on a retweet of the Schefter report about decertication cited below.
3:30 p. m.Kelli Johnson of Comcast SportsNet just tweeted that it seems to be over:Source confirms that De Smith told players on call that Union is in the process of decertifying & despite reports, no progress has been made. I'm told that the union will be sending a detailed email of everything that's happened over past 2 yrs to player reps in next 2 hrs.
3:25 p. m.Mike Silver of Yahoo! sports just tweeted the following:A good source just told me that management's offer "split the difference." The union hasn't counteredSo will the players accept a reduction of some 3 to 4 million annually without looking at the books? We will soon find out.
3:15 p. m.OK, this is getting a little bit silly. Here's another tweet from Gary Myers of the NY Daily News:Source is now saying decertification is certain, but not final. I think that means things can still change. But it's not looking good.How can it be certain but not final? If it is indeed certain, then a final decision has been made. Maybe it means that the paperwork hasn't been filed. But right now, decertification is ahead by two touchdowns with about three minutes left to play. Probable, but not certain.
3:05 p. m.We now have a slightly conflicting report from Chris Mortensen, who is, like Schefter, employed by ESPN, said that Smith was "reviewing all the options" with the players and that decertification was one of those options. Less than two hours to go, we will have answers soon.
2:50 p. m.Adam Schefter tweets the following:We'll see if anything changes, it always could, but De Smith told players during his conference call the plan is to decertify.Now, Smith did this knowing full well that this would leak out. He wants to make sure that the owners know that he still is willing to pull the trigger. He may have fully intended to do that an hour ago, but the paperwork hasn't yet been filed.
2:45 p. m.A couple of updates here. First, nobody knows what is going on at the negotiations; even the most dialed-in reporters have heard nothing. That's a good sign, it means the two sides are talking to each other.
And De Smith should be talking to us soon. The NFLPA's camera crew has arrived on the scene, an indication that the union chief will have something to say before too long. It could be in five minutes, it could be in an hour, but we will hear something relatively soon as we approach two hours to go until the zero hour for union decertification.
2:20 p. m.We now know what DeMaurice Smith's tweet about the players being updated today at 2 was about. According to Aaron Wilson of the Carroll County Times and the National Football Post, Smith is holding a conference call with the players right now. We don't know what he's telling them, but I'll guess that we will find out soon after the call over, if not sooner.
1:55 p. m.My friend John Eisenberg over at has some words of warning for the NFL's current stewards.
1:50 p. m.According to Peter King, Rodger Goodell has a lot of latitude when it comes to making a deal. From his latest article on SI:One NFL source said that on a conference call with owners Thursday, commissioner Roger Goodell was given the freedom to move drastically, if need be, to make a deal with players.
1:30 p. m.
Speaking on's Lunchbox Live, Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said: "It doesn't look good; it looks like we're going to decertify." We will have the video posted shortly.
12:50 p. m.
From various reports, the two sides are meeting face to face at this moment. The owners are making what may be their final offer. It will either fly well enough to warrant another extension to work out the final details or it will flop and the union will decertify.
12:15 p. m.
Is there some hope? Will they give peace a chance? Here is a tweet from Gary Myers, NFL writer for the New York Daily News:Hearing from two key sources this morning very close to labor talks. 1) Less pessimism in the room today; 2) no outcome would be a surprise
12:00 p. m.
The Subway across the street from the K Street building where the negotiations, such as they are, are taking place, is injecting a bit of humor into a tense situation.
11:40 a. m.
Here is Peter King again via Twitter. There is some hope, like the nature of the discussions. It's time.Just filed scene-setter to Up soon. Not optimistic, but holding out scant hope. Lots of quiet, urgent discussions last night in DC.
11:30 a. m.
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has been outstanding and, most importantly, even handed in covering the labor situation (in the interest of full disclosure, this site and PFT both are under the NBC Sports Group umbrella). And in a recent post, he summed up what many have been thinking about the situation. We have players speaking out of school (Drew Brees took to Twitter this morning in another PR play), and owners who don't want to budge. Where are the leaders here. What are DeMaurice Smith and Rodger Goodell doing while all hell is breaking loose around them. Judging from what we saw last night, Smith is stirring the pot and the commissioner has been invisible. As Florio wrote:Its time for Roger Goodell and DeMaurice Smith to earn their millions and rise above the noise and behave as the stewards of the game that they are.Or at least that theyre supposed to be.If they cant, then maybe they simply arent the right men for the jobs they hold.11:15 a. m.
My apologies for a few hours worth of internet issues. Although I haven't reported anything for the last few hours, you have not, unfortunately, missed much. We still seem to be on a decertificationlockout watch, not a CBA progress watch. Here is an ominous tweet from Mike Freeman of players tell large swaths of players have stopped spending. Some selling off cars, stocking up on food.
7:00 a. m.
Are the NFL owners tilting at windmills in trying to keep their books a secret? If they don't show them to the players, where there will be the possibility of a confidentiality agreement with the NFLPA, they may well have to show them in the courts, which could well lead to them being made available to the media and, by extension, to the general public. At the risk of breaching Bart Scott's trademark on the phrase, Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports says he "Cant Wait!" for that to happen. Neither can most of us who cover the NFL.

So, do they want at least a shot at confidentiality, although some information would inevitably leak out? Or do they want it out there for all to see?
6:00 a. m.
Good morning, let's reset the scene here. We are dealing with three deadlines here. At midnight, the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL expires for the first time since it was implemented in 1992. Prior to that, at 5 p. m., comes the deadline for the NFLPA to decertify as a union, a tactic that DeMaurice Smith seems certain to implement. And at 2:00, according to a tweet by Smith on Thursday evening, the players around the country will receive an update on the situation.Nothing of note seems to have leaked out overnight. Of course, the overnight news of the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan provided a healthy dose of perspective to this dispute.
9:45 p. m.
Would decertification lead to a league year beginning within a week or two? Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk thinks it would, due to a likely injunction issues by Judge David Doty. Peter King of Sports Illustrated also thinks that what most of us are calling Doomsday on Friday could end up leading to a free agency period happening before the draft, but not as soon as Florio thinks it could happen.King had a great tweet a bit earlier in the evening:Love how one person close to talks just put it to me: 'Hoping for a Hail Mary, preparing for Thelma and Louise.'
9:00 p. m.
Representatives of the owners and players spent most of the evening trading taunts and insults back and forth. Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe has a good roundup of the exchanges, which made your typical grade school sandbox conflict look like a model of maturity and decorum. Can someone please give these folks some directions to the high road?
8:15 p. m.
Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal reported this evening that the NFL owners were all on a conference call (with the exception of Patriots' owner Robert Kraft, who is in Israel). They are likely going over their final options and deciding just how much they will be willing to give up when the talks start tomorrow.
20:55 p. m.
A reality check tweet from Darren Rovell, the sports business guru from CNBC:Remember this: It is in the owners & the union's best interest to paint the worst possible picture going into tomorrow.This is along the lines of the darkest hour being just before dawn. A lot can happen in a day.
8:30 p. m.
The owners and players have finished meeting today. Or did they ever meet? George Atallah, the union spokesman, said that the sides never met today. A representative for the league said, There were face-to-face discussions today with the union, absolutely." So they cant even agree if they met or not. Not a very encouraging sign as the deadline approaches. 5:15 p. m.
Union chief DeMaurice Smith only joined Twitter a couple of months ago and he has made only nine tweets. But one he made just a little while ago caught the attention of everyone following the labor saga. Players stay strong! Stay informed, update by 2pm tomorrow So, we might not have to wait until 5 oclock to see what is going on. Its hard to imagine thats good news for those who want to see the lockoutdecertification be averted.