NFL labor history since 1968

A chronology of NFL labor issues since the NFLPA was recognized by the league in 1968:


NFL owners recognize the NFL Players Association as a representative of the players, and after a brief summer work stoppage, a collective bargaining agreement is reached.


After the NFL-AFL merger, the NFLPA is certified by the National Labor Relations Board, and John Mackey becomes first president of the union.


Ed Garvey is hired as NFLPA executive director. Union files antitrust case against league seeking to eliminate "Rozelle Rule" under which commissioner Pete Rozelle could award equal compensation to a team losing a free agent.


A five-week players' walkout nets the union no gains and NFLPA members are back in training camp on Aug. 10.


The union wins its Mackey vs. NFL antitrust lawsuit, but gets only limited free agency with compensation under a new CBA.


Gene Upshaw becomes union president.


A 57-day-long strike beginning after two games are played forces cancellation of seven weeks of the season and leads to a 16-team playoff tournament. The new CBA basically returns lost salary to the players for the games missed and upgrades benefits and health coverage.


Upshaw takes over as NFLPA executive director.


Perhaps the darkest year in NFL history. Union goes on strike after two games. Owners sign replacement players and, after missing one week, stage three games. During that time, dozens of veterans cross the picket lines and rejoin their teams, including such future Hall of Famers as Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Steve Largent and Tony Dorsett. After 24 days, the fractured union votes to end the strike despite no new agreement. A 15-game season is played.

On Dec 30, the NFLPA asks federal judge David Doty to overturn the league's rules restricting free agency.


In January, Doty agrees with the league that the contract should remain in effect, and urges both sides to continue bargaining on the free agency issue. In July, Doty refuses to turn loose 300 NFL players from their teams by granting them free agency, saying it could destroy competitive balance and cause some teams to fold. Instead, Doty urges that the sides get out of the courts and go back to the bargaining table while preparing for an antitrust trial that he says he thinks the players would win.


A limited free agency system called Plan B begins, allowing teams to protect 37 players and giving them the right to match offers for free agents or receive compensation.

Meanwhile, the NFLPA decertifies as a union as the players opt to take their cases to court.

Rozelle resigns as commissioner and is replaced by Paul Tagliabue.


Doty rules players are free to pursue individual antitrust cases against the NFL. Jets running back Freeman McNeil and seven other players who were restricted under Plan B file an antitrust lawsuit against the league.


In May, Doty tosses out the NFL's labor exemption, upholds the NFLPA's decertification and rules to allow individual players to pursue free agency. Four months later, Doty dismisses a players' association lawsuit claiming collusion among NFL owners.


In September, a Minneapolis jury strikes down Plan B and awards $1.63 million in damages to four of the eight plaintiffs. Four days later, 10 players file suit to become unrestricted free agents. Ten days after that, Doty declares Philadelphia's Keith Jackson, Detroit's D.J. Dozier, Cleveland's Webster Slaughter and New England's Garin Veris as unrestricted free agents for five days.


A pivotal year. After Reggie White of the Eagles files a class-action lawsuit, new negotiations begin and the CBA that results from those talks includes more open free agency and a salary cap.


CBA is extended until 1998.


CBA is extended for two more years.


Another two-year extension is worked out by Upshaw and Tagliabue.


A four-year extension to the CBA is completed.


In his final major act as commissioner, Tagliabue negotiates another CBA extension. Only Buffalo and Cincinnati vote against it. Both sides can opt out of it in 2008.

Roger Goodell is elected commissioner after Tagliabue retires.


NFL opts out of the agreement, saying its costs are too high and it needs givebacks from the players. 2010 season will have no salary cap.

Upshaw dies in August.


After six months without an executive director, the players elect Washington attorney DeMaurice Smith.


Union files collusion claim against owners regarding lack of movement of restricted free agents. Both sides meet for short negotiations one day before Super Bowl in Dallas.

NFL files charge against union with NLRB for not bargaining in good faith because of its plans to decertify.

Federal mediator George Cohen begins a week of mediation sessions on Feb. 18, sessions that continue intermittently up until the CBA's expiration.

Doty rules that the NFL's contracts with the TV networks to collect $4 billion even if no games are played in 2011 is "lockout insurance."