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NFL Players' union decertifies as talks break down

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WASHINGTON (AP) — All along, the NFL said it was certain the players' union would decertify and head to court.

All along, the union insisted the league's owners were planning to lock out the players.

And that's exactly what happened.

Unable to decide how to divvy up $9 billion a year, NFL owners and players put the country's most popular sport in limbo by breaking off labor negotiations hours before their contract expired. At midnight, as Friday became Saturday, the owners locked out the players — creating the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987 and putting the 2011 season in jeopardy.

The league said in a statement Saturday it was "taking the difficult but necessary step of exercising its right under federal labor low to impose a lockout of the union."

On Friday, the union decertified, and 10 players, including MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, sued the owners in federal court in Minneapolis, saying the league violated antitrust laws. The players also sought an injunction to block a lockout — even before one had been imposed.

Despite two extensions to the collective bargaining agreement during 16 days of talks overseen by a federal mediator — following months of stop-and-start negotiating — the sides could not agree on a new deal.