411569611_ceba9edbc6_zThis past Friday, football fans throughout the country heard the news most have been dreading for the past several months. Unable to come to an agreement regarding labor issues, the NFL Players Association and NFL owners broke off negotiations hours before their contract expired. First, the Players Association decertified. Then, ten players filed an antitrust suit against the NFL under the Sherman Act, the federal statute that limits monopolies and essentially constitutes a complete shutdown of the business. During a lockout, teams may not communicate with current NFL players, no players may be signed, teams will not provide health insurance for players, and players are not welcome in team facilities.

A chasm of $1 billion originally divided both sides. At the end, the parties had negotiated down to a $185 million difference over how much the owners should receive first before divvying up the rest of the revenues to the players. However, at this point the NFLPA refused to make any more concessions without obtaining more financial information from each team. As the NFLPA’s executive director DeMaurice Smith pointed out, “I would dare any one of you to pull out any economic indicator that would suggest that the National Football League is falling on hard times.”

However, the Players Association decertified largely so that it could file the antitrust lawsuit. Labor law prevents collective bargaining agreements from being attacked through antitrust laws. Thus, by decertifying, the players terminated their collective bargaining agreement, paving the way for the antitrust lawsuit to be filed.

The players filing the lawsuit include Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, incoming rookie Von Miller, and six others. As a class action claim, the suit will cover all current players and incoming rookies. Miller’s inclusion permits the plaintiffs to make claims regarding issues that affect rookies. The players’ suit challenges the lockout, the league’s policies on the draft, the salary cap, and free agency restrictions.

After receiving a recent favorable ruling from the same court in which the case will be heard, the players are hopeful that Brady et al vs. National Football League et al will be similarly decided in their favor. Unfortunately for football fans, the pending legal battle could easily jeopardize the 2011 season.

-- Meredith Lawrence

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