NFL announces lockout of players

MIAMI Sat Mar 12, 2011 2:30pm EST

DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director, makes a statement after negotiations collapsed between the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) in Washington on March 11, 2011. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

DeMaurice Smith, NFL Players Association Executive Director, makes a statement after negotiations collapsed between the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) in Washington on March 11, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joshua Roberts

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MIAMI (Reuters) - The NFL officially announced a lockout of players by team owners following the move by the players' union to dissolve themselves and pursue court action against the league, the NFL said in a statement Saturday.

A lockout effectively closes down the league's activities and will halt any trade activities and any other dealings between players and clubs and it puts the 2011 season at risk.

Friday the union (NFLPA) announced they had 'decertified' and were no longer taking part in collective bargaining over a new deal between the league and players.

"The union's abandonment of bargaining has forced the clubs to take action they very much wanted to avoid. At the recommendation of the Management Council Executive Committee under the authority it has been delegated by the clubs, the league has informed the union that it is taking the difficult but necessary step of exercising its right under federal labor law to impose a lockout of the union," said the statement.

"The clubs are committed to continuing to negotiate until an agreement is reached, and will gladly continue to work with the FMCS (federal mediators)."

At least 10 players, including leading quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, Friday filed antitrust lawsuits against the NFL to attempt to halt a lockout.

Whether or not the lockout can be enforced for a lengthy period will ultimately be decided by the courts but there remains the risk that the 2011 season, due to start in September, could be disrupted.

"The clubs believe that this step is the most effective way to accelerate efforts to reach a new agreement without disruption to the 2011 season," read the NFL statement.

"The clubs want to continue negotiating intensively to reach a fair agreement as soon as possible. Our goal is finding common ground and resolving the issues with the union. That is why we ask the union to resume negotiations with the federal mediator.

"The negative consequences for the players and clubs will continue to escalate the longer it takes to reach an agreement."

The last time the NFL lost games to industrial action was in 1987 when players went on strike.

Team owners and players are in dispute over a range of issues, including how to divide up more than $9 billion in annual revenues.

In a flurry of statements issued Friday, the NFLPA said the league had been "actively strategizing for a lockout of the players for more than two years."

"Any agreement reached from this point forward with the NFL will be as a result of the court system, not a collective bargaining agreement," the union said.

(Editing by Justin Palmer)

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