NFLPA files to decertify

March 11, 2011 Updated Mar 11, 2011 at 9:44 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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NFLPA files to decertify

March 11, 2011 Updated Mar 11, 2011 at 9:44 PM EDT

Washington (ESPN.com) The NFL Players Association has filed papers to decertify, effectively disbanding the union and giving it the chance to sue under antitrust laws if there is a lockout.



"The NFLPA will move forward as a professional trade association with the mission of supporting the interests and rights of current and former professional football players," the group said Friday in a statement.



The move follows a 16th day of federally mediated negotiations in which the union, presented with a proposal from the league's owners group late Friday afternoon as a 5 p.m. decertification deadline approached, rejected the offer as "significant differences continue to remain," union chief DeMaurice Smith said.



"They have chosen to choose another strategy, and that is their choice," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said.



Just after the players' union decertified, the players filed suit against the NFL in U.S. District Court, seeking class-action against the league. They also filed a request for an injunction that would keep the NFL and the teams from engaging in a lockout.



The collective bargaining agreement with the league expires at the end of Friday.



The players who filed the antitrust lawsuit include: Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Vincent Jackson, Ben Leber, Logan Mankins, Brian Robison, Osi Umenyiora, Mike Vrabel and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who is entered in this year's draft.



The players allege that the NFL conspired to deny the players' ability to market their services.



Without decertification, the union would've had to wait six months to file a suit after the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement.



Shortly after the announcement, the union's website, NFLPA.org, had been taken down.



"Error 404: Football Not Found" was published in large letters near the top of the site's homepage. A smaller line below read: "Please be patient as we work on resolving this. We are sorry for the inconvenience."



A link to www.nfllockout.com was included above a graphic-art sketch of what appeared to be a website blueprint. At the bottom, another link directed licensees to a password-restricted portal.



"The parties have not achieved an overall agreement," federal mediator George Cohen said, "nor have they been able to resolve the strongly held competing positions that separated them on core issues.



"No useful purpose would be served by requesting the parties to continue the mediation process at this time."



Smith had said 10 years of audited financial records must accompany any request from the owners for an extension before the 5 p.m. deadline.



"We told them that please let us know by 5 p.m. today," Smith said. "We're going to head back to the office, and I'm sure we'll have further comment later on."



The owners' group convened late Friday afternoon to discuss the next steps.



Meanwhile, Brees rejoined the talks Friday, reiterating the union's desire for the NFL owners to open their books.



Brees was among a group of about 20 people, including Smith, who walked over from the union's nearby headquarters. Brees and Smith were flanked by several other current or former players.



"To our fans -- I give you my word that we as players are doing everything we can to negotiate with the NFL towards a fair deal," Brees tweeted before the start of Friday's meetings. "The NFL brought this fight to us -- they want $1 billion back, we just want financial information to back up that request."

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