NFL players can draw from lockout fund next month

Each NFL player who contributed to a lockout fund will be able to begin collecting up to a total of about $60,000.

After setting aside union dues and royalties during recent seasons, eligible players may start drawing from the fund April 15.

NFL Players Association head DeMaurice Smith said on March 18 that money was available to help players while they are not receiving paychecks during the lockout, which owners imposed after the collective bargaining agreement expired. Smith would not provide details.

The NFLPA sent players an email — a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press — to let them know its board of player directors “approved the payout from the Lockout Fund to begin on April 15, in six installments or until the lockout ends.”

Players were instructed to fill out a direct deposit enrollment form attached to the email. first reported Tuesday about the NFLPA email.

Negotiations for a new CBA broke off March 11. The union announced that day it was dissolving itself and no longer represented the players. That allowed players to file a class-action antitrust lawsuit in federal court. Hours later, at midnight, the owners locked out the players, creating the NFL’s first work stoppage since 1987.

A hearing on players’ request for an injunction to lift the lockout is scheduled for April 6 in St. Paul, Minn.

The main sticking point throughout contract talks was how to divide the NFL’s more than $9 billion in annual revenues.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press