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The NFL confirmed it has locked out the players, creating the sport's first work stoppage since 1987 and putting the 2011 season in jeopardy.
The league said in a statement Saturday it was calling on the union to return to negotiations immediately. The Associated Press reported overnight the NFL imposed a lockout at midnight.
On Friday, negotiations between the sides broke off hours before their collective bargaining agreement expired. The union decertified and 10 players, including MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, sued the owners in federal court, seeking an injunction to block a lockout - even before one had been imposed.
"The union's abandonment of bargaining has forced the clubs to take action they very much wanted to avoid. ... 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," Saturday's statement from the NFL said.
A lockout is a right management has to shut down a business when a CBA expires. It means there can be no communication between the teams and current NFL players; no players - including those drafted in April - can be signed; teams won't pay for health insurance for players.
Even though the NFL is early in its offseason - and the regular season is six months away - this is hardly a complete downtime. Free agency usually begins in March, and there are hundreds of free agents now in limbo. Also this month, under a regular schedule, team-organized offseason workouts would start.
The lockout grinds all such activity to a halt.
The NFL's statement called the union's decertification a "sham" and said the players' court action is "built on the indisputably false premise that the NFLPA has stopped being a union and will merely delay the process of reaching an agreement."
The statement told fans: "We know that you want football. You will have football. This will be resolved."
This program aired on March 12, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.
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