Now that the NFLPA has decertified and taken the battle between the players and owners into a courtroom, they aren't a players union anymore. Instead, they are now considered a trade association. That gives them the ability to file anti-trust law suits against the NFL while still giving them some of the benefits that they had before.
The NFL may be taking aim at one of those benefits: the association formerly known as the NFLPA's ability to negotiate marketing deals with players.
"We don’t understand the source of their rights," NFL senior V.P. of business affairs Gary Gertzog told Kaplan. "In the CBA, it states group licensing rights are designed to support the objective of the union. If the union no longer exists, there is certainly a question whether those rights are valid, and people who do business [with the NFLPA*] should be looking into those questions."
The NFL is looking to hit the players where it will hurt the most, their outside sources of revenue, especially if the players plan on making sure this lockout lasts for a while. The NFL has not only communicated this to the former players union, but to the league's sponsors as well.
"We have communicated to our sponsors who were relying on these rights [that] if they are still interested in group players they will have to find out how to access those benefits, whether through some other entity the former union has or going directly to the agents or players."
Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio wrote that, while this may seem to be the NFL trying to communicate with their sponsors, it is nothing more than the league trying to force the players into signing a deal sooner rather than later. He says that it will add pressure to the players to accept the terms of what they "continue to unreasonably call 'the worst deal in the history of sports'."