Round 1 Goes to the Players: Judge Nelson Will Not Allow the Owners to Lockout Players

Posted: April 25, 2011 in Robert J. Romano

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson apparently was persuaded by the Former NFL Players’ Association’s position that the lockout was causing irreparable harm.

Per her opinion, the players “have made a strong showing that allowing the League to continue their ‘lockout’ is presently inflicting, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon them, particularly when weighed against the lack of any real injury that would be imposed on the NFL by issuing the preliminary injunction.”

“The public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales,” she wrote. “And, of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football — who have a strong investment in the 2011 season — is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation.”

Granting the injunction swings the leverage to the players’ side, so therefore, it is logical that the NFL will immediately appeal the ruling.

“We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the league said. “We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.”

The NFL Owners’ position was that it is their right to lockout the players and that the federal court does not have jurisdiction while the National Labor Relations Board considers an unfair labor charge that the players failed negotiate in good faith.

Now the question is, what happens next? The collective bargaining agreement has expired, so what will happen with free agency, trades and offseason workouts?  All of these were banned under the lockout.

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