The NFL Players Association has filed papers to decertify, effectively disbanding the union and giving it the chance to sue under antitrust laws if there is a lockout.
“The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players,” the group said Friday in a statement.
The move follows a 16th day of federally mediated negotiations in which the union, presented with a proposal from the league’s owners group late Friday afternoon as a 5 p.m. decertification deadline approached, rejected the offer as “significant differences continue to remain,” union chief DeMaurice Smith said.
“They have chosen to choose another strategy, and that is their choice,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. Without decertification, the union would’ve had to wait six months to file a suit after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.
Smith had said 10 years of audited financial records must accompany any request from the owners for an extension before the deadline, which was allowed to pass. The league’s collective bargaining agreement was set to expire at the end of the day.
“We told them that please let us know by 5 p.m. today,” Smith said. “We’re going to head back to the office, and I’m sure we’ll have further comment later on.” The owners’ group convened among themselves late Friday afternoon to discuss the next steps.