Friday, March 11, 2011

NFL Players Union moves to decertify, creates NCAA compliance nightmare

Talks between the NFL owners and NFL Players Association disintegrated today, and the ramifications of the union decision to decertify could reach into the compliance offices of every college athletics program, from the Little Sisters of the Poor to the University of Alabama.

Fox Sports reports on the developments today:

There is no more overtime in labor negotiations between the NFL and NFL Players Association.

Talks for a new collective bargaining agreement fell apart Friday, as the players' union moved to decertify. This will undoubtedly lead to the league's first work stoppage in 24 years.

In a statement, the NFLPA said it would "move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players."

The news came Friday afternoon following a contentious Thursday of verbal salvos between both sides during heated negotiations. Nine NFL owners on the league's executive committee as well as a slew of NFLPA executives and player representatives were among those who attended Friday's session at Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service headquarters in Washington.

Several legal proceedings are now set to follow, which could continue the impasse into the regular season.

"The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process," the NFL said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4 p.m. ET it had 'decertified' and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining."

image Yes, the lockout will threaten the 2011 NFL season and the likelihood of missed football games looms for the first time since 1987.  Yes, teams and their host communities stand to lose millions in revenue and rookies will miss golden opportunities to develop before trying to crack rosters before the start of the season. But there are other impacts, and many football fans haven’t yet grasped those ancillary ramifications of today’s decision. But they soon will.

The NFLPA is the body that regulates professional football agents. With decertification, that regulatory power goes away and along with it, even the most distant threat of punishment for improperly seducing college athletes is gone with the stroke of a judge’s pen.

Remember when Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban compared rogue agents to “pimps?” You ain’t seen nothing yet.

There is no federal statute governing the behavior of professional sports agents outside of prohibition of activities that are against existing federal law (fixing games, shaving points, etc). Agent registrations are left to the states, and each state has its own way of dealing with them. Some states’ laws are toothless. Others are tougher. But the only real threat that agents faced was being ostracized by the NFLPA and forbidden from representing them in contract negotiations.

Decertification eliminates that threat, and NCAA bylaws don’t apply to agents. Those rules only apply to the schools and players who play for them, and the pimps Saban referred to—along with their sleazy networks of runners and street reps—fear the NCAA Committee on Infractions the way the Alabama Defense fears the Little Sisters of the Poor’s Pro-style Offense.

Get ready for a slew of compliance issues related to agents, and I sure hope the NCAA Enforcement staff for agents, amateurism and gambling is ready for the overtime.

They’re gonna need it.

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