NFL players poised to decertify union, could seek injuction to block lockout

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Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 3, 2011

NFL players are poised to decertify their union Thursday and may immediately seek a court injunction to prevent teams from locking them out when their collective bargaining agreement expires, sources familiar with the preparations said Wednesday.

Both sides were making contingency plans for a confrontation that would begin Thursday barring last-minute developments in their negotiations over a new labor deal that neither side expected, according to sources on both sides of the dispute. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deliberations publicly.

Only a postponement of Thursday's 11:59 p.m. bargaining deadline or a last-minute shift in strategy could change both sides' plans, the sources said. Owners could lock out players one minute later, as early as midnight Friday.

The central issue in the labor dispute is how owners and players should share the sport's approximately $9 billion in annual revenue. The owners also want to install a wage scale for rookies and extend the regular season to 18 games.

Owners met Wednesday afternoon and evening at a hotel in Chantilly near Dulles Airport. That meeting came after negotiators for the league and union met with a federal mediator for about four hours in downtown Washington. Representatives of the owners met again Wednesday night with the mediator, George H. Cohen, and the negotiations are scheduled to resume Thursday morning.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said the full ownership group did not vote on a lockout when it met for about three hours.

"We didn't break the room with a lockout vote," Irsay said. "It was just an update. Owners were able to ask questions. . . I never have expectations because it changes. It's a chess board that moves around and things change."

Greg Aiello, the NFL's senior vice president of public relations, said after the full ownership meeting: "There were no decisions made. No actions were taken, and we'll continue to go through the mediation process."

But some officials said no formal lockout vote by the owners was required because they previously authorized their bargaining committee to act as it sees fit.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, lead negotiator Jeff Pash and the owners on the bargaining committee met for about an hour after the full ownership meeting.

Several owners on the bargaining committee declined to comment as they left their meeting. Others in the sport said a lockout was virtually certain unless it is blocked by a court injunction.


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