Stop us if you've heard this one before.
After days of unproductive negotiations, the NFL players union and league owners broke off talks on a new collective bargaining agreement Friday afternoon after the union, led by DeMaurice Smith, filed paperwork to decertify as a union. Without another extension, the current CBA will expire at midnight and the league's first work stoppage in 24 years will officially begin.
The decertification filing, writes Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, marks a transfer of "the labor impasse from the bargaining room to the court room," effectively killing any hope for a speedy resolution and full 2011 season. The benefits and risks of such a move are great. Since it's no longer a union, the NFLPA will lose the right to collectively bargain. Moreover, as Forbes' Kristi Dosh pointed out last week, "the players would lose all of the benefits that are collectively bargained, such as their pension and medical insurance." Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann expects owners will counter this with a grievance to the National Labor Relations Board claiming the NFLPA is "acting in bad faith and that the NFLPA's true goal is to get the NFL exposed to antitrust litigation as a way of grabbing owners' money."
The upside--or the downside, if you're interested in watching football on Sundays this fall--is that individual players can file antitrust lawsuits against the owners. Fox's Alex Marvez notes that any such filing would fall under "the auspices of David Doty, a U.S. district court judge with a lengthy history of favorable NFLPA rulings." Multiple outlets are reporting that Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning have agreed to serve as de facto celebrity plaintiffs and lend their names to antitrust lawsuits.
In other sides, less scoring, more suing.