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What does recertification for the NFLPA mean and how long could it take?

07.21.11 at 4:35 pm ET
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While the football world waits on the possible recertification of the National Football League Players Association, there remain questions as to what the recertification process involves and how long it will take. NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith spoke with the media early Thursday afternoon about the process, and didn’t sound like someone who thinks immediate recertification is a done deal.

“Every individual person has to make a decision about whether they want to be part of a union,” Smith said. “The individual decision is something that our players take extremely serious[ly].

“I know there are a lot of things swirling out there, and I certainly remember comments from some of the owners about how we might not even be like a real union. Well, guess what? The decision to decertify was important, because at the time we were a real union and the decision for our players as men to come back as a union, is going to be an equally serious and very sober one that they have to make.”

Sports legal expert Michael McCann, the director of the Sports Law Institute at the Vermont Law School and the distinguished visiting Hall of Fame Professor of Law at Mississippi College School of Law, says that recertification is in the best interests of both sides, but both the players and owners are having their issues with the process.

The league needs the players to recertify for several reasons, not the least of which is that it would help them avoid the possible violation of antitrust laws. Meanwhile, the players are concerned that if they immediately recertify, that would give credence to the NFL’s argument that the whole decertification process that took place in March was a sham in the first place.

“Legally, the two sides could agree without recertification, but it’s in both of their best interest agree to wait until that’s done,” said McCann, who has written about the lockout extensively for SI.com.

Then, there remain questions about how the recertification process would work. One report indicated that the players needed to get the individual signatures of the roughly 1,900 players, while other reports indicate that it could be done electronically. (One player wondered about the possibility of carrier pigeons being used to distribute the ballots.) McCann said that it’s a different process with different unions, but in his experience it’s something that should be able to, “be done pretty quickly, unless the players are incommunicado or something like that.”

“There are a lot of players — it’s a big group. I don’t know how long it would take per se, but I don’t think this would take months,” he said. “If in fact they’ve reached a deal and it’s just a matter of them endorsing it as players, I think the recertification vote could be done quickly.”

Read More: DeMaurice Smith, lockout, Michael McCann,
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