With NFL’s uncertain labor situation, Colts take first step to union decertification

By Michael Marot, AP
Friday, September 17, 2010

Colts vote unanimously to decertify union

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have unanimously voted to decertify the players’ union, a key step that could allow them to sue the NFL in case there is a lockout next season.

Pro Bowl center Jeff Saturday, the team’s player rep, confirmed that the vote took place Wednesday and said he expects the other 31 teams to do the same thing.

“When it’s explained why you’re doing it, I don’t think anyone would vote against it,” he said Friday.

No immediate action is expected to be taken by NFL Players Association, but voting now will help the union avoid the logistical nightmare of tracking down players for voting cards and signatures during the offseason. And it could give the union the right to sue the league under antitrust laws if there is a lockout as NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith fears. The collective bargaining agreement expires in March.

Players have been told that if the union does not decertify before the CBA ends, the NFLPA would have to wait six months to sue the league.

“This is purely a procedural matter and is a non-story until March,” George Atallah, the NFLPA’s assistant executive director, told The Associated Press last weekend. NFLPA officials did not immediately return messages left Friday.

League officials declined to comment.

Saturday, who serves on the union’s negotiating committee, did not know whether other teams had already voted or when others had scheduled votes.

Smith is expected to meet with each team over the next few weeks. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also answered questions from Colts players during a training camp meeting last month.

Decertification would strip the union of collective bargaining rights on behalf of the players, and could affect marketing of the players through NFL Players, the marketing arm of the union.

It’s not the first time this has happened.

In 1989, two years after a failed players’ strike, the NFLPA decertified. It returned as a union in 1993, when a contract was reached with the league that provided for free agency. That landmark CBA was renewed or restructured several times since 1993, including in 2006. The owners opted out of that deal in 2008.

AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner contributed to this report.

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