UPDATED: Saturday, March 12, 2011, 10:39 a.m.
By Ryan OHalloran
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The NFLs first work stoppage since 1987 began at midnight after the players union rejected the owners' latest collective bargaining agreement proposal, announced it was ending mediation talks and disclosed a plan to decertify.
As the NFLPA expected, the owners responded early Saturday by locking out the players.
A third extension to facilitate further negotiating did not happen when the seven-day window expired Friday at 5 p.m., when the owners declined to provide 10 years' worth of financial data to the union.
The parties have not achieved an overall agreement, nor have they been able to resolve strongly held, competing views that separate them on core issues, said George Cohen, the federally appointed mediator who oversaw 17 days of talks in Washington. It is the considered judgment of yours truly that no constructive purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue mediation at this time.
The players are expected to file and likely win an injunction that would prevent them from being locked out.
Any business where two parties dont trust each other is a business that can never be as successful as it can be, NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith said.
While Smith trashed the other side about trust issues, New York Giants owner John Mara took the union to task.
During this two-week period, the unions position on issues has not changed one iota, he said. Their position has basically been take it or leave it and has effectively been the same position since last September.
One thing that became painfully apparent during this period, to me, was that their objective was to get to litigation. I never really got the feeling during the past two weeks they were serious about negotiating.
Litigation is likely where things are headed. According to an NFL.com report, the NFLPA has filed paperwork to federal court in Minnesota so players can file an antitrust lawsuit against the league. The plaintiffs include some of the sports biggest names: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
Absence of an agreement is a shared failure, said Jeff Pash, the owners lead negotiator. Fans should be disappointed, they should be unhappy and I understand that.
The only voice of optimism was Carolina owner Jerry Richardson, co-chair of the owners negotiating committee.
This is a time for our fans to not be discouraged, he said. I view it as a bump in the road. In due course, well have an agreement.
For the first time, details of the owners' proposal were revealed by Pash. They included:
A rookie wage scale for first-round draft picks with the savings reallocated to veteran players.
Reduction of the offseason program by five weeks, organized team activities from 14 to 10 and limiting contact in practices.
A commitment to keep the schedule at 16 games in 2012 and no increase to 18 games without the players approval.
Funding of 82 million in 2011-12 for former players, which would increase the benefits for more than 2,000 players by 60 percent.
A per-club cash minimum spent of 90 percent of the cap over three years.
The union left a very good deal on the table, the NFL said in a statement.
Smith disagreed and expressed disappointment the owners refuse to open their books to see exactly how much revenue theyre generating and how much theyre spending to build a winning team.
At this time, significant differences continue to remain, Smith said.
As for the NFLPA, its website was disabled by early Friday evening and player agents received a memo saying the organization would no longer being a clearinghouse to certify agents, essentially leaving them on their own.
In December 1989, the NFLPA became the only sports union to decertify, and it allowed lawsuits that led to a new CBA four years later and a reformation of the union.
If the sides do return to the negotiating table, Cohen said he stands ready, willing and able to help the parties, if the sides agree to further mediation.
During this extensive period, a wide variety of issues, both economic and work-related, were addressed in a professional, thoughtful manner, Cohen said. The differences were explored at length and a consensus emerged on a number of them. The differences were narrowed.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said: We do believe that mediation is the fairest and fastest way to reach an agreement that works for the players and for the clubs. And we believe that ultimately this is going to be negotiated at the negotiating table.
Contact Ryan O'Halloran at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CSNwashington.com will have more on this story as it develops, for more on the CBA negotiations, check out our NFL Labor Page.