When the NFLPA decertified at 5 PM, they made it highly unlikely that there is any meaningful lockout this season. This is being widely misunderstood and misreported by the mainstream football media, but it allows the players to sue to in order to block an owner-imposed lockout. They’ll also file a bunch of specific suits alleging violations of antitrust laws, in the absence of a CBA.
The players are going to eventually win those lawsuits, in the face of clear and established antitrust law, and they’re going to eventually wind up with a better situation than they could have with continued negotiations. The NFL was intransigent, and was determined to lock out the players and pressure them into major concessions. David Doty's recent ruling that the NFL acted in bad faith in negotiating the payment of television fees even in the case of a work stoppage took away all of their leverage for the war of attrition which they were planning.
Depending on who you’re rooting for (and I remain agnostic), you might be feeling some anger at the other side. I can see that, but we’re all going to see that this decertification is far less disruptive to the fan experience than the alternative. I think it’s very likely that David Doty is going to say that the NFL must continue to do business under last season’s (or possibly 2009’s) rules, while the process plays out in the courts. (That’s a hunch, not a certainty.) That will lead to a new league year starting soon, and football being played like always.
In closing, I think it’s funny how this is being characterized as a huge disaster, because it’s not a negotiation anymore, it’s now a litigation. A litigation is often a negotiation by other means. People think negatively of lawyers, so it’s an easy shot for these idiot media people to take. The truth is that DeMaurice Smith is a lawyer. Jeff Pash is a lawyer. George Cohen is a lawyer. This thing has been being handled by a bunch of lawyers all along.
The only meaningful change is that there isn’t really a deadline anymore, and there’s now a federal judge presiding over this dispute: David Doty, who can make binding judgments, rather than a mediator who can’t. Remember, Doty was the judge who guided the settlement that resulted in the 1993 CBA. Remember that the 1993 CBA was a settlement that was agreed upon by other sides, after six years that were played without a CBA, while non-disruptive litigation happened in the background. That negotiation/litigation resulted in the first real free agency in NFL history, and I believe that it set the stage for the huge success that has been experienced by both sides.
I fully expect that another settlement will eventually be reached, and for now, the fans almost certainly aren’t threatened with missing any football. To me, that’s a win for the fans. The players and the owners can settle their issues without having the fans be in the middle of it.