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WASHINGTON — Welcome to The NFL Lockout.
As far back as May 2008, it became a possibility.
As recently as a week ago — when owners and players agreed to extend the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement — Commissioner Roger Goodell made it sound avoidable.
And yet here we are: The country’s most popular sport — water-cooler fodder for six months of Mondays; generator of more than $9 billion in annual revenues; responsible for the two most-watched programs in U.S. TV history, the 2010 and 2011 Super Bowls — is stuck in a holding pattern, thanks to its first work stoppage in nearly a quarter of a century.
The owners imposed a lockout on the players Saturday, essentially shutting down operations. That came hours after talks broke off and the union dissolved itself, meaning players no longer are protected under labor law but instead are now allowed to take their chances in federal court under antitrust law. Nine NFL players, including superstar quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and one college player headed for the pros filed a class-action lawsuit in Minnesota and asked for a preliminary injunction to block a lockout, even before it went into effect.