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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Judge Deals Big Blow to NFL Owners

Legal expert: Players far from goal line
By Dennis Dillon

The NFL players advanced the ball in their labor battle with the owners Monday. U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson granted the players their motion for a preliminary injunction that lifts the lockout imposed by owners when negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement collapsed on March 11.
But it’s premature for the players to do any celebratory dancing.
“The players basically started on their own 20-yard line and I think they’ve just made a first down,” said Gary Roberts, dean of Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis. “But they’ve still got a long way to go to get to the goal line.”
As both sides try to wrap their hands around Judge Nelson’s ruling, here’s what figures to happen next.
A swift appeal. The owners will request Nelson to stay her ruling until they can make arguments before the United States Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. If Nelson turns the owners down, they will go to the 8th Circuit and ask for a stay while they appeal it.
The NFL and the NFL Players Association are far from a complete outcome in this NFL labor mess, Dennis Dillon says. (AP Photo)
“Whether the stay is granted or not, I’m sure the 8th Circuit will hear an expedited appeal,” Roberts said. “The court will set a briefing schedule, there will be oral arguments after the briefs are filed, and then we’ll get an opinion on the appeal.”
An interpretation of what Nelson’s ruling means for NFL operations. Right now, it’s not clear what will happen, and how soon it will happen, though league spokesman Greg Aiello said Monday night that players will be admitted to team facilities. As for the clubs, will they be allowed to start signing free agents?
“We know she’s ordered the league to do something,” Roberts said, “but it’s not clear what they can or cannot do going forward now that they have to operate.”
More meetings. Owners and players are scheduled to meet again May 16, four days after U.S. Federal Judge David Doty holds a hearing on whether players should receive damages in their related fight with owners over $4 billion in broadcast revenue.
One thing is certain: This labor impasse is far from settled.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen here,” Roberts said. “There are so many possibilities.”

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