The National Football League filed a 74-page brief with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals outlining their legal position as they get ready for their appellate argument scheduled before the court on June 3, 2011.
The NFL claims that if the court agrees with U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson’s decision that the lockout should be lifted without a new collective bargaining agreement in place, financially better-off teams or bigger market teams, will be in a position to sign all of the best players. These signings would damage the league in the long run by tilting the competitive balance between those that would be the ‘haves’ and those who would be the ‘haves not’. This tilting of the competitive balance would disrupt the leagues longstanding position that parity between teams is always in the best interest of the league.
The NFL’s brief expands on their claims that the former Players’ Association act of decertify themselves after collective bargaining negotiations broke down is a sham; that the court does not have jurisdiction in this situation to lift the lockout; and, that the court should have waited for a decision from the National Labor Relations Board before issuing a ruling. In addition, the league claims that lifting the lockout without a labor deal would cause chaos; with teams making decisions about free agent signings and trades under a set of rules that could change with a new collective bargaining agreement.
“It would be difficult, if not impossible, to unscramble the eggs and return those players to clubs that otherwise may have had contract arrangements with [or, at least, a greater ability to enter into contracts with] such players in the absence of an injunction,” the league’s court brief said. And that the court “failed entirely to consider the serious, immediate and irreparable harm the injunction posed to the NFL and vastly overstated the harm to the players and the nature of that harm.”
The league argued that Judge Nelson’s injunction “undercut” their leverage by allowing the players to circumvent the lockout and further delayed constructive bargaining talks, which they deemed “the essence of irreparable harm.” The league stated, “As to harm to the NFL, federal labor law permits an employer to institute a lockout ‘for the sole purpose of bringing economic pressure to bear in support of his legitimate bargaining position.”