Reports earlier this week of a split between the players in the NFL’s ongoing labor dispute appear to have been greatly exaggerated, the New York Post reported Friday.
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A published report that roughly 70 "mid-tier" players disgruntled with the decertified union had hired a pair of law firms to force their way into the negotiations petered out when the NFL announced it would not grant a waiver to one of those firms with ties to the league.
That firm, which two industry sources identified as Indianapolis-based Barnes & Thornburgh, was soliciting players to break from the union, though one of its partners represents the NFL in nonlabor matters.
The firm told the Sports Business Journal on Friday it was approached about representing NFL players, and did not try to solicit players.
Though a copy of the solicitation email from the firm to individual players that was posted on the union’s website specifically stated the NFL told the firm it was "welcome" to create a split within the players in the negotiations, a league spokesman denied that was the case.
"We didn’t know about this matter until the firm asked us [yesterday] if we would waive the conflict (of interest), and we said no," NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in an email Thursday.
Word of a surprise schism within the union first surfaced Wednesday in a report by the Sports Business Journal citing the potential lawsuit by the breakaway players that didn’t name any players or the two firms.
The report said the disgruntled players had approached the two firms, but the email obtained by the union and several industry sources insisted it was the other way around — the firms initiated the contact.
So far, none of the 70 reportedly disgruntled players has stepped forward to publicly proclaim their displeasure with the 10 members representing the union in the ongoing antitrust case against the owners.
The reason for that is simple, according to a prominent player involved in the labor talks.
"They don’t exist," Seahawks offensive lineman Chester Pitts wrote on Twitter Thursday.
It would indeed be puzzling for the players to fracture when they appear on the verge of two pivotal court rulings in their favor between now and mid-May.
Federal judge Susan Nelson is expected to rule no later than next week on the players’ request for an injunction that likely would lift the lockout immediately. The owners are expected to appeal to the Eighth Circuit if Nelson lifts the lockout.