NFL lockout can remain for now
The NFL lockout isn’t being lifted any time soon.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that the emergency stay given last month that kept the lockout in place can remain at least until a final ruling is issued. Such a decision likely won’t come until at least late June after both sides in the Brady v. NFL antitrust lawsuit present their case to the 8th Circuit June 3 in St. Louis.
"It is now time to devote all of our energy to reaching a comprehensive agreement that will improve the game for the benefit of current and retired players, teams and, most importantly, the fans," the NFL said in a statement. "This litigation has taken the parties away from the negotiating table where these issues should be resolved. We remain confident that the appellate court will determine that this is a labor dispute that should be governed by federal labor law.
"But the league and players, without further delay, should control their own destiny and decide the future of the NFL together through negotiation."
The ruling and legal explanation from two members of the three-judge panel strongly favors the NFL during its labor battle with its players (one judge dissented). If the lockout was lifted, the league would lose leverage by being forced to resume personnel moves and begin offseason workouts.
The 8th Circuit said it feels the NFL has proven it will "likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay."
Monday’s decision blocks an order given last month by U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson to lift the lockout. The NFL partially ended its work stoppage for 24 hours on draft weekend before receiving the emergency stay and locking out the players once again.
"The NFL’s request for a stay of the lockout that was granted today means no football," the NFL Players Association said in a statement. "The players are in mediation and are working to try to save the 2011 season."
The NFL reportedly made a new offer to the players Monday but a plaintiff attorney in the in the Brady v. NFL case told NFL.com that it was “probably not one that’s acceptable as is.”
The lockout is considered one of the major pressure points in favor of the NFL in trying to leverage players into accepting a new labor deal. The longer the lockout remains absent a new collective bargaining agreement, the greater the odds the 2011 season will not start on time or could even be canceled outright.
"We’d like to make progress, but it’ll be hard to do. We have to wait to see what happens June 3," Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said on his way into the federal courthouse in Minneapolis.
Hall of Famer Carl Eller, representing retired players in their federal antitrust lawsuit against the league with the current players, said as he left the courthouse that his side was waiting on a proposal from the owners. He said he was prepared to return Monday night if significant progress was made.
"It’s been a long day, and we’re still working on it," Eller said, according to the Associated Press.
Significant steps toward a new collective bargaining agreement or guarantees of a full 2011 season seemed unlikely.
The majority, from Judges Steven Colloton and Duane Benton, sided with the NFL while Judge Kermit Bye dissented in favor of the players.
"The district court reasoned that this case does not involve or grow out of a labor dispute because the players no longer are represented by a union," the majority wrote. "We have considerable doubt about this interpretation . . . (the Norris-La Guardia Act) does not specify that the employees must be members of a union for the case to involve or grow out of a labor dispute."
The 8th Circuit has been seen as a more conservative, business-friendly venue for the NFL than the federal courts in Minnesota, and legal observers have noted that Colloton and Benton were both appointed by President George W. Bush, a Republican; Bye was appointed by President Clinton, a Democrat.
Bye dismissed the conclusions of his fellow judges, just as he did April 29.
"Notwithstanding the majority’s analysis, the NFL has not persuaded me it will suffer irreparable harm during the pendency of this expedited appeal," Bye wrote. "In any event, there will not be any shift in the ‘balance of power’ until the appeal is resolved."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.