The NFL Labor Dispute/Lockout Creates Legal Questions

NFL wide receiver Chad Ochocinco is trying out for a position with MLS’s Sporting Kansas City, and Baltimore Raven’s Safety Tom Zbikowski has one boxing match under his belt and another match scheduled.  In the past, such activities could have violated the Dangerous Activities clauses of their contracts. However, since the NFL has locked-out the Players, rules are uncertain.

Attorney Dan Fitzgerald spoke with Robert J. Romano about the binding effect of NFL player contracts during the lockout.

Dan Fitzgerald: Do NFL player contracts prohibit players from taking part in other sports during the lockout?

Robert Romano: Although a player’s contract may not have expired, the players are not bound by them for the duration of the lockout.  The contractual prohibitions on so-called dangerous activities and other sports will not have any effect on players during the lockout.

DF: If and when the lockout ends, will existing contracts become binding once again?

RR: Unless otherwise negotiated in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), existing player contracts are likely to become effective once the lockout ends.

DF: What happens if a player gets injured during the lockout and isn’t ready to play if the season goes forward?

RR: The player risks getting injured if he competes in dangerous activities otherwise prohibited by his contract.  The question is does the team/owner have to honor the terms of the contact once the new CBA is ratified.  If the new CBA is silent on this issue, the team would most likely deal with the injury in the normal course – via injury settlement, or non-football injury list.