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A closer look at the post-settlement timeline

NFL Contract Talks Continue As Deadline Approaches

WASHINGTON - MARCH 10: DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director, arrives at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 10, 2011 in Washington, DC. Representatives from the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) continue to negotiate a labor dispute during a 7 day extension of talks. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

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At some point, the lockout will end. If it ends via settlement, certain things will have to happen. Here’s our best current understanding of how those things would unfold, whenever the settlement comes.

First, a written settlement agreement would be signed by the parties. From the league’s perspective, 24 of the 32 owners would have to approve the deal before the appropriate signatures are applied. From the players’ perspective, the 10 named plaintiffs need to sign off on the proposed resolution of their class action.

Second, assuming that the settlement will require the NFLPA* to reconstitute itself as a union, the players would be required to accumulate sufficient signatures from the players to support the return of the union, with the settlement agreement becoming the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Much of the process can be handled electronically, allowing the harvesting of the signatures to be handled expeditiously.

Third, Judge Susan Nelson would be required to approve the settlement of the class action. The return of the NFLPA as a union would likely make the process simpler than it normally would be. In a typical case, the judge gives the potential class members a chance to opt out of the class and/or a chance to object to the proposed settlement. In this case, if more than 50 percent of the players embrace the return of the union, all players presumably will be bound by that outcome.

Given the involvement of Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in the settlement talks, it’s safe to assume that Judge Nelson would be inclined to move quickly, in order to allow the settlement to be effected quickly, which in turn would permit the lockout to end and the Tom Brady class action to exit Judge Nelson’s docket, subject only to the question of whether she will have jurisdiction over the final CBA.

The only potential fly in the ointment comes from the possibility of a group of players objecting to the settlement, refusing to rejoin the union, and insisting on an opportunity to pursue the antitrust action in lieu of resolving the situation. If that were the case, however, we’d likely already be hearing from players who were inclined to throw a wrench into the gears. Indeed, there’s nothing at this point stopping individual players from filing their own competing antitrust lawsuits, given the absence of a union. Before negotiations resumed in late May we’d heard talk of a possible effort to form a new union; however, there has been no talk of players filing separate lawsuits, other than the NFLPA* Plan B possibility of individual breach of contract suits aimed at recovering workout bonuses and other payments provided for in individual contract.

The simple reality is that the decertify-and-sue strategy came from a desire to provide the players with leverage in the labor negotiations. The players overwhelmingly supported that approach, and there’s every reason to think they’ll overwhelmingly approve any effort to resurrect the union and finalize a new CBA. Thus, while there will be i’s to dot and t’s to cross and hoops through which to jump, it’s our understanding that it would be a relatively simple process, and that it could all be accomplished in a week, possibly less.