The NFL won a major shift of leverage in its dispute with the
locked out players Monday as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in
St. Louis granted the league’s request for a full stay of the
injunction that briefly ended the lockout.
By Bob Glauber – Newsday
The NFL won a major shift of leverage in its dispute with the locked out players Monday as the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted the league’s request for a full stay of the injunction that briefly ended the lockout.
The work stoppage now could continue into late June or early July unless there is a new labor agreement, so the owners now may have significant negotiating power on their side. A full hearing on the injunction appeal will be June 3 in St. Louis, and a decision isn’t expected for at least two weeks after that.
The league had asked the appeals court to keep the lockout intact until the NFL’s appeal was decided. District Court Judge Susan Nelson in Minneapolis granted the injunction last month, and the NFL opened for business for less than a day until an appeals court granted the league’s request for a stay April 29.
Monday’s appeals court decision came hours after league and player representatives resumed mediation as part of Nelson’s court order. The two sides had taken a monthlong break because the mediator, Judge Arthur Boylan, had determined that the parties wanted to await further court rulings before engaging in further discussions.
The appeals court decision could mean that little substantive progress will be made by mediation, because both sides are anxious to have the appeal decided. Then again, it could hasten talks aimed at a new collective-bargaining agreement if the players were more agreeable to terms presented by the league. Word surfaced late Monday that the owners were prepared to make a new offer to the players, although no immediate resolution of the longstanding issues dividing the two sides was expected.
The June 3 hearing will be held before the same three-judge panel that made the decision on the full stay. The vote was 2-1, the same as a previous vote to allow a temporary stay on April 29. In both decisions, the dissenting vote was cast by Judge Kermit Bye.
The other two judges – Steven Colleton and Duane Benton – indicated that they sided with the NFL’s interpretation of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which stipulates that federal judges cannot issue injunctions in labor disputes.
“In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin the league’s lockout, and accordingly conclude that the league has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits,” the decision read.
The NFL Players Association, which decertified March 11 and set the stage for antitrust litigation against the league, said in a statement after the decision: “The NFL’s request for a stay of the lockout that was granted means no football. The players are in mediation and are working to try to save the 2011 season.”
The NFL indicated in its own statement that negotiating a new deal was of paramount importance. “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 league said. “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.”