What Exactly Would an NFL Lockout Mean?

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With the dreaded NFL lockout looking more like a certainty than ever despite federally mediated talks between the two parties, it is time to take a look at exactly what the lockout means.

We all know it’s bad for the game and potentially for the fans as well, but how exactly does it affect the everyday routine for players and for teams?

The best starting point is the definition of the lockout under federal labor law, which says that the lockout is the right of the employer to shut the business down upon the expiry of the collective bargaining agreement.

Such a move would basically mean that after Wednesday, all communication between teams and their players would effectively cease. Injured players would bear the brunt of such a turn of events as team doctors would no longer be able to continue their rehabilitation at the team’s facilities. They would be allowed to monitor their progress elsewhere though.

Medical coverage offered by the teams would also cease to exist, although players would be able to pay for their own coverage. Players could not be signed and yes, this includes those who were drafted in April. Obviously, if the lockout does not end in a timely manner, there will be no games either. In the case of a lockout, given the inability of the parties to negotiate and to sign contracts, free agency would disappear too.

One of the ways players could fight back, and – according to the NFLPA – attempt to save the 2011 season, is by decertification. Decertification would essentially kill the union, thus preventing the lockout. It would also give individual players the possibility to file anti-trust claims against the NFL.

The legal grounds behind these claims would be the league’s alleged restriction of trade. The Players’ Association has received permission from its members to decertify, but any such move would have to come before the expiration of the CBA.


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