4 Points on the NFL Lockout

What are the implications of the decertification of the players’ union?

NFL owners have been exempt from antitrust suits by their players on account of the non-statutory labor exemption.  In its simplest terms, the non-statutory labor exemption favors union agreements over antitrust laws.  (It is the non-statutory labor exemption that ultimately defeated Maurice Clarett’s challenge of the NFL’s draft eligibility rule).  Since the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was, as its name implies, a negotiated agreement between the NFL and the players’ union (the “Union”), NFL owners were protected from an antitrust lawsuit by the players.

By decertifying, the Union becomes a trade association.  Since there is no agreement in place, the players can sue the owners, who are no longer protected by the non-statutory labor exemption.  As with any litigation, a settlement can be reached at any time, and remains a more likely possibility than a judicial determination on the merits of the case.

Why is the players’ lawsuit against the owners in the name of Tom Brady?

The Union wanted big-name players to headline the lawsuit, and that’s what exactly what it got.  A trio of likely Hall of Fame quarterbacks – Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees – are named plaintiffs (there are seven other plaintiffs including Patriots guard Logan Mankins).  The public relations benefits of directly associating the league’s biggest stars with this labor dispute are obvious.  The short name of the lawsuit  – Brady v. NFL – is sure to make NFL owners cringe each time it is mentioned by the media.

Will the NFL Draft still be held?

The draft, which has turned into a prime-time television event, will be held.  However, it may have different look this year.  The NFLPA has reportedly recommended that rookies do not attend.  Nevertheless, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has indicated that the show will go on.

Team will choose players, but they won’t be signed and there will be no mini-camps for the rookies to attend.  The longer the lockout continues, the less likely rookies will have a significant impact on the field providing that the NFL and players eventually reach a settlement in time to have a season.

Can the UFL capitalize on the NFL’s struggle?

The UFL has been struggling with some debt issues of late, but most agree that the UFL could be the big winner if the lockout spills into football season.  Pro Football Talk has reported that the UFL is considering signing NFL players.  If the UFL can survive until the start of the season, it seems likely that the UFL will sign free agent players on the fringe of NFL rosters who prefer a sure thing to waiting for the lockout to end.  But that development, along with increased fan interest, may be enough to keep the league afloat.

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