STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
OK. There's football season and then there's football money season. We are in the latter. Billions of dollars and potentially the coming season are on the line. The NFL's collective bargaining agreement should have expired by now. But late yesterday, owners and players agreed to extend their deadline until midnight tonight. As NPR's Mike Pesca explains, the union enjoys a unique position with owners.
MIKE PESCA: Mice and cats, Redskins and Cowboys, owners and players union - all natural enemies, right? Nope. Just as Tom defined Jerry and Joe Gibbs respected Tom Landry, so too do the NFL owners, for all their bluster, actually need the union. Gabe Feldman is the director of Tulane University's sports law program.
GABE FELDMAN: Sports is probably the only industry where management begs their employees to unionize. They are in much better shape if their employees have a union.
PESCA: The players know this, too, and that's why they very well might opt for what Northeastern University sports law Professor Roger Abrams deems the bomb.
ROGER ABRAHAMS: It is the union threatening to commit suicide.
PESCA: It is decertification. The union will cease to be a union. That exposes the NFL to a suit under antitrust law. It is the exact play the union called back in 1989, and it was successful then. Abrams and Gabe Feldman think decertification could prove a winning tactic. Not every sports law expert agrees. Michael LeRoy teaches at the University of Illinois.
MICHAEL LEROY: I think it's a desperate strategy, myself. I think it has a low probability of success. Courts view professional sports as a different animal from any other kind of business.
PESCA: But even LeRoy says the union has nothing to lose by trying it. If the writing's on the wall that it won't work, they can re- undecertify. New verbs may be needed because these tactics are really rare in labor law, says Gabe Feldman of Tulane.
FELDMAN: The NFL would be creating law here. We don't know if a group of owners can lock out a group of employees who have dissolved their union. That's completely unprecedented.
PESCA: Mike Pesca, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
INSKEEP: It's MORNING EDITION.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.