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Evidence that union plans to decertify comes from an unlikely source


It’s becoming more and more likely that the NFL will lock out the players on March 4. It’s unclear whether the union will in response to a lockout decertify and file an antitrust lawsuit after the NFL imposes rules for free agency, the salary cap, and the draft across 32 ostensibly separate businesses.

It’s possible that the union is bluffing about decertification, and that the union fears losing the antitrust case.

If it’s a bluff, one of lawyer Jeffrey Kessler’s colleagues is doing his best to sell it.

In a workers’ compensation dispute pending in Pittsburgh federal court, attorney Adam J. Kaiser (pictured) resisted an effort to move former Steelers player Kendall Newson’s claim out of the court system and into arbitration because a lockout is coming, followed by decertification.

Here’s the relevant paragraph from Rich Lord of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “There is going to be a lockout of the players on March 3, because there is absolutely no chance of reaching a [contract agreement],” said Adam J. Kaiser, an attorney with New York firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, which represents the union in contract talks and in Mr. Newson’s case. The union will decertify, and “arbitrations will be almost impossible to resolve,” leaving Mr. Newson in limbo.”

Lord doesn’t directly quote Kaiser as saying decertification will occur, but the context indicates that’s what Kaiser told the court while arguing Newson’s case. It is clear that Kaiser believes a deal between the league and the union has “absolutely no chance” of being reached on March 3.

That said, some lawyers will say whatever they have to say in order to get the ruling they want. Kaiser wanted a ruling that Newson’s claim should stay in court and not be sent to federal court. So it’s possible that Kaiser isn’t privy to the union’s plan, and that Kaiser pushed the idea of a lockout/decertification in order to prevail. Then again, Kaiser and Kessler are partner’s in the 26-city firm’s New York office, and they have worked together on other matters. So Kaiser likely knows what Kessler knows when it comes to decertification, and Kaiser possibly has let the cat out of the bag in a Pittsburgh courtroom.

We’re reached out to Lord for more information about what Kaiser did, and didn’t, say.

UPDATE: Reached by phone, Lord confirmed that Kaiser’s comments came in open court, and that Kaiser said the union will decertify. In a separate post, we’ll explain what decertification means.