NFL lockout chess match continues

The legal chess match between the NFL and plaintiff attorneys for the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit continued Thursday in an appellate court.

Less than 12 hours after the league filed an emergency motion to stay the lifting of the lockout that was ordered by a federal district judge, the plaintiffs countered by requesting that they have a chance to respond to the NFL’s motion with the eighth circuit court of appeals in St. Louis.

The plaintiffs’ requested deadline for a response is noon CST Friday.

The NFL then countered with a letter arguing that a delay to the granting of a temporary stay would potentially place the league in contempt of Judge Susan Nelson’s order. NFL Players Association attorneys sent an email to players and agents Thursday morning stating they should proceed as if the league calendar year has begun. The NFL continues to enforce the lockout that bars player transactions and the start of team-sponsored offseason workouts.

"The Brady plaintiffs cannot have it both ways," the NFL letter states. "They cannot threaten immediate contempt sanctions against the NFL defendants while at the same time asking this court to delay addressing the NFL defendants’ request for the temporary stay. Indeed, the plaintiffs’ threat of contempt only underscores the need for a temporary stay."

If that temporary request is granted, the NFL would be permitted to keep the player lockout in place as the legal process unfolds. That includes the barring of veteran player trades during the NFL draft Thursday through Saturday in New York City.

The timing of the draft also was cited in the NFL’s counter letter. The league claims that coordinating the start to the 2011 league year is a "complex process that requires time to coordinate. And this occurs at a time (during draft weekend) when those at the league and the clubs responsible for player-related matters have substantial other responsibilities."

A ruling from the appellate court on the temporary stay request could come as early as Thursday.

Nelson ruled Monday that the lockout should be lifted based upon the public good and because players were suffering "irreparable harm" during the work stoppage. Nelson then denied the NFL’s request for a stay Wednesday night, leading to the league’s emergency filing.

The Washington Post reported that two Redskins players were denied entry Thursday morning when they arrived at team headquarters. Media reports in other cities claim players are also being turned away.

The longer the lockout continues following Nelson’s order, the greater the NFL risks being found in contempt pending the appeals process to a higher court.

The Brady v. NFL lawsuit was filed last month alleging antitrust NFL violations that breach player rights. The lawsuit was connected to the NFL locking out its players after the NFLPA decertified as a union and the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the two sides expired.