All Four Quarters: A Retrospective and Analysis of the 2011 Collective Bargaining Process and Agreement in the National Football League
78 Pages Posted: 14 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 12, 2012
The National Football League (“NFL”) survived its longest work stoppage ever during the 2011 offseason despite being bombarded by a sports law perfect storm. After months and years of negotiation, the National Football League Players Association (the “NFLPA” or “Players”) decertified itself as the bargaining representative of NFL players on Friday night, March 11, 2011, hours before the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) between the NFL and the NFLPA agreed to in 2006 (the “2006 CBA”). By the end of the night, nine current NFL players and one prospective NFL player, led by New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady, had filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL and its 32 Member Clubs.
The Brady lawsuit was just one part of a lengthy and litigious 2011 in the world of professional football. The NFL responded to the Brady lawsuit by “locking out” the Players just after midnight upon the expiration of the 2006 CBA. Players could no longer report to work, Clubs could not have any contact with players and, eventually, games could have been missed. Laymen fans probably had no preference as to who won the Brady suit but were mostly concerned that football be played and not the particulars of a CBA which would enable games to be played.
The NFL has often served as the crash test dummy and model for labor relations and related litigation amongst the major North American sports leagues. In addition to the Brady lawsuit, the Players sought damages related to the NFL’s television contracts which allegedly violated the 2006 CBA, retired players fought for their rights in the labor negotiations and the NFL contended that the Players had violated their obligation to bargain in good-faith in a proceeding before the National Labor Relations Board.
Cooler heads ultimately prevailed and the NFL and NFLPA reached a settlement of the various lawsuits and agreed to a new CBA (the “2011 CBA”) without missing any regular season games. The 2011 CBA is the longest in sports history (ten years), significantly changed the compensation structure for NFL Players. Time will determine whether the 2011 CBA is a mutually beneficial arrangement but the early analysis suggests that the NFL received favorable concessions on several major points.
This Article will examine the history of labor negotiations in the NFL, provide a thorough examination on the most recent labor dispute and its related legal actions, and conclude with a detailed analysis of the 2011 CBA.
Keywords: National Football League, NFL, National Football League Players Association, NFLPA, collective bargaining agreement, CBA, Brady, Goodell, Pash, DeMaurice Smith, antitrust, labor, Norris-LaGuardia, lockout, strike
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