As expected, the NFL owners unanimously opted out of their collective bargaining agreement with the Player’s Association on Tuesday.
The owners had until November to exercise their opt-out clause in the agreement that was signed in 2006, but they chose to opt out early.
The 2008 and 2009 seasons won’t be affected by this decision, but 2010 could become a non-salary cap year and 2011 would be the first chance the owners have to lock out the players.
Gene Upshaw, head of the player’s union, has threatened to decertify the player’s union and become a trade organization if a lockout is threatened. A decertification would mean the owners would be violating anti-trust laws if it attempted to lock out a group of players who are not unionized.
The owners claim that part of the reason for their opting out of the agreement is the escalating costs of “generating the revenues of which the players receive the largest shares,” according to John Clayton of ESPN.com, who quoted an NFL statement. Additionally, the owners state that the agreement “recognize that those costs have increased substantially in recent years during a difficult economic climate in our country.”
The word with many football writers is that there is a long time to go before NFL fans start panicking about a work stoppage. Peter King of Sports Illustrated noted in a recent article that the salary cap-free year of 2010 is slightly overblown since many players will not qualify for free agency that year.
The player’s union and the league will begin talks this year about a new agreement and the issue is likely to slide to the backburner. However, given the vast popularity of the NFL, a potential work stoppage is likely to become a very widespread issue if the talks go nowhere over the next year.