You read the title correctly. At 5:00 ET yesterday, the union filed its de-certification papers, and as of 12:00 AM ET, the NFL has entered its first work stoppage since 1987. From the NFL's official statement:
"The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players’ union notified our office at 4pm ET on Friday that it had "decertified" and walked away from mediation and collective bargaining to initiate the antitrust litigation it has been threatening to file. In an effort to get a fair agreement now, the clubs offered a deal that would have had no adverse financial impact upon veteran players in the early years and would meet the players’ financial demands in the latter years.
"Regrettably, the union’s leadership has walked out and is refusing to participate in collective bargaining. The union has insisted on a continuation of an unsustainable status quo rather than agreeing to reasonable adjustments that reflect new economic realities we all have experienced. The status quo would also mean no improvements for retired players, too much money to a handful of rookies, and no changes to improve our drug programs.
From the Bears' official statement:
"We’re disappointed in the need to take this step, but it is necessary for the long- term health of our league. Ultimately we believe an agreement will be reached at the bargaining table. As an individual club, our team focus is on our preparation for the 2011 season and we want Bears fans to know we are going to continue to do everything we can within the League rules to prepare for a championship season. Our immediate focus is on preparing for the draft. We also continue to evaluate our team and will be ready to take advantage of all avenues to improve our team once a new collective bargaining agreement is reached.
And from comments made by Bears player rep Robbie Gould:
"The owners hired Bob Batterman a year-and-a-half or two years ago. This is what they wanted to have happen. When you hire a lawyer such as Bob Batterman, the lockout was obviously at their forefront. And after 16 days of mediation, obviously there wasn’t much movement being made on the NFL’s part with their final proposal, and then obviously we have to file for decertification."