No football!? NFL owners lock out players

NFL lockout begins
National Football League Players' Association (NFLPA) executive director DeMaurice Smith (R) and Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday (L) talk with the media following meetings at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service building March 11, 2011 in Washington, DC.
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The National Football League's first work stoppage in almost a quarter century began early this morning, when the players were locked out.

CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson reports that, in September, fans of the NFL may feel as much pain as the players themselves, assuming there's no football being played.

After 16 days of talks, both sides of the country's most popular sport failed to resolve a heated labor dispute. So at midnight, the NFL's owners locked out its players.

"The absence of an agreement is a shared failure and I think they should be disappointed," said Jeff Pash, the NFL's negotiator.

The players union dissolved itself, which allowed ten players, led by star quarterback Tom Brady to file an antitrust lawsuit against the league and each individual franchise.

"Whatever trust that we would hope to exist doesn't appear to be there anymore," said Jim Quinn, an attorney for the NFL Player's Association.

The issues that divide the two sides include extended health benefits for players, limits on rookie pay and, perhaps the sharpest disagreement, how to slice up the league's $9 billion annual revenue.

The owners, who now get more than $1 billion off the top before dividing the rest with the players, want more. They say it is necessary to build stadiums and grow the game.

"Their argument to the players is: 'Hey, when we grow revenue, everybody makes more money.' The players are looking at that math and saying we are not sure we think so," said Sally Jenkins, Washington Post sports columnist.

At the moment, the effects of the stalemate are minor. There will be a draft in April. However, there will be no new contracts, no practices, and players, who only get paid during the season, will now have to pay their own health insurance.

"Nobody is under real financial threat until september and I think that's when we'll find out who's got the real leverage," Jenkins said.

The next step is court, where a judge will decide whether the league can go ahead with the lockout. If so, an NFL season could be in jeopardy for the first time since 1987.