Roger Goodell

The commissioner could have a big problem on his hands.

The NFLPA decertified on Friday, dissolving itself as a union.

That means the players can now sue the NFL under antitrust laws.

The NFLPA and NFL had spent 17 days with a federal mediator to try to work out a new collective bargaining agreement, but things finally reached an impasse.

“After carefully reviewing all the events that have transpired, the judgement of yours truly … is that no constructive purpose would be served by requesting the parties continue mediation at this time,” mediator George Cohn said.

The biggest issue was the NFLPA’s request for detailed financial records. With the owners asking the players to take a substantial pay cut, the players want to look at the books.

NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith requested 10 years of audited records from the teams, while the NFL offered five years of individual club’s financial documents and profitability data. By decertifying and taking the fight to court, the players hope to get access to all the clubs’ books, which could be quite interesting.

If the players are successful, financial info for all 32 clubs would be made available to the public. Not only would the players get to see each team’s finances, but so would the media, other owners and fans.

The league, of course, wants no part of that.

The NFL released the following statement after talks broke down.

“The fastest way to a fair agreement is for both the union and the clubs to continue the mediation process. Unfortunately, the players’ union has notified our office that at 4 p.m. ET it had ‘decertified’ and is walking away from mediation and collective bargaining, presumably 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.”

“The union left a very good deal on the table. It included an offer to narrow the player compensation gap that existed in the negotiations by splitting the difference; guarantee reallocation of savings from first-round rookies to veterans and retirees without negatively affecting compensation for rounds 2-7; ensure no compensation reduction for veterans; implement new year-round health and safety rules; retain the current 16-4 season format for at least two years with any subsequent changes subject to the approval of the league and union; and establish a new legacy fund for retired players ($82 million contributed by the owners over the next two years).”

The fight is likely to go on for some time, so stay tuned.