The NFL Players Association (NFLPA), founded in 1956, did not earn recognition as a players union until 12 years later, according to ESPN.com. It was in 1968 that the NFLPA first threatened a strike but was instead locked out for a week, creating the first collective agreement.
Due to the previous agreement of the AFL players, the NFLPA players were forced to accept salaries that were less than expected at the owner’s demands.
In May 2008, the owners decided to back out of their collective bargaining agreement, which was decided in 2006, and play through the 2010 season without a bargaining agreement plan. This means that there was no salary cap. The plan’s expiration date was scheduled for March 3, 2011, but both parties had agreed to a one-week extension.
Despite the extension, the NFLPA decertified as a union, and led the owners to impose a lockout.
A group of players led by Tom Brady, Drew Brees and others became plaintiffs in an antitrust lawsuit against the league. Executive director Demaurice Smith said he thinks owners are ready to lockout players for the 2011 season.
The NFL players are fighting a proposed salary decrease by the owners. The players are currently receiving 60 percent of the revenue of the NFL’s $9 billion, which was a part of the 2006 agreement.
The argument is that with the struggling economy, which has undoubtedly led to a decrease in ticket sales and merchandise, players’ pay is unreasonable.
The proposed increase in games, from 16 to 18, for the 2011 season is also an issue in the lockout negotiations. Most players are against this increase, especially if the extra games comes with no extra pay. Players have also expressed concern of safety with the increase in games. They have said that increasing the season is in direct opposition to the increased spotlight on player safety.