NFL owners, including Seattle Seahawks owner Paul Allen, overwhelmingly voted to approve a settlement proposal to end the lockout with players in Atlanta on Thursday, considered a precursor to the two sides ultimately agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement.
The final vote was 31-0, with the Oakland Raiders abstaining.
Now the ball is in the players’ court to recertify as a union and sign off on the agreement that calls for the two sides to divide up an estimated $9.3 billion in gross revenue.
That might be easier said than done.
The players have a meeting scheduled via conference call at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
However, NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith, speaking to reporters at his organization’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., hinted that recertifying the union – a needed step toward an agreement – was not imminent.
“Here in America, every time an employee makes that decision about whether he wants to be a part of a union, it’s something that is serious, significant and should be done in a very sober way,” Smith told reporters in Washington.
According to a NFLPA source that Jason La Canfora of the NFL Network spoke to, the players want to use a system of signed cards and follow certain bylaws in order to recertify, which could take more time and push back the start of free agency and training camps.
Here’s an excerpt from a report on the league’s web site:
“The issue between the parties is mainly one of time, specifically how long it would take to collect approximately 1,900 signatures. Getting those signatures takes time, and the league obviously is looking to open for business as soon as possible. There is the possibility the National Labor Relations Board could help speed things up, even if the recertification process is done by actual signature.
“The parties also could come to a compromise, according to a source, whereby the lockout is lifted before a full global settlement is reached — which would have to include recertification in order to have a full CBA — to allow players to report in the interim.
“That would make it easier to collect signatures and cards of players currently under contract since they would be centrally located at team facilities. If that takes place, in theory, then the signatures needed could be obtained over weekend and allow the league year to begin next week.”