Judge Orders an End to NFL Lockout in Players Favour

April 26, 2011

Yesterday, April 25, US District Judge Susan Richard Nelson gave the National Football League (NFL) players an early victory in their lawsuit against the league’s lockout by ordering an end to the sanction after backing the players’ argument that the work stoppage is causing irreparable harm to their careers.

In riposte the NFL has promised an immediate appeal after Nelson’s judgement supported the players in their fight with the owners over how to divide the competition’s US$9 billion annual turnover.

Nelson wrote that the plaintiffs “made a strong showing that allowing the League to continue their ‘lockout’ is presently inflicting, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon them, particularly when weighed against the lack of any real injury that would be imposed on the NFL by issuing the preliminary injunction.”

The NFL responded by stating: “We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labour disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans.

“We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.” DeMaurice Smith, the NFL Players’ Association executive director, said: “I am happy for our players and for our fans. Today, those who love football are the winners”, the league added.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has since claimed that the league faces a future with no draft or salary cap, unlimited free agency and a handful of dominant teams if players and owners fail to negotiate a new labor accord.

In an article published in the Wall Street Journal, Goodell wrote that the decision to back the players may ‘endanger’ the sport, adding: “A union victory threatens to overturn the carefully constructed system of competitive balance that makes NFL games and championship races so unpredictable and exciting.”

Owners imposed the initial lockout after talks broke down in March ahead of the deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). In turn the players disbanded their union and a group of players, led by quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees filed the injunction request along with a class-action antitrust lawsuit against the NFL.

If the appeals court upholds the injunction, the League will be forced to open its doors for the first time since the lockout began March 12.