Lockout enjoined! What does that mean?
Apr 25, 2011, 8:36 PM | Updated: Apr 26, 2011, 6:36 am
By Mike Salk
I just finished reading the 89-page decision handed down from Judge Susan Richard Nelson regarding the NFL lockout. I won’t claim to understand it as a lawyer would, but I did read it and figured I’d offer a few thoughts from a common man’s perspective.
In short, the judge decided to enjoin (end) the lockout.
Essentially, she reasoned that because careers are short, the loss of a year could hurt players in a variety of ways.
In order to justify the lockout, she needed to prove three things.
First, the players have a â€œfair chanceâ€ of prevailing in their eventual lawsuit which claims the league is violating anti-trust laws.
She writes that, â€œin issuing a preliminary injunction against the lockout, this Court is, of course, only ruling that the Brady Plaintiffs have a fair chance of prevailing on that particular claim. Such an injunction is not an adjudication that the NFL is liable for any antitrust violation.â€
Basically, she isn’t saying the players would win, but that they have enough of a shot to win that the lockout is unfair.
Second, the players would suffer â€œirreperable harmâ€ if time is lost. This is the key.
She believes that â€œbecause of this constant pressure to prove their physical and economic worth, the Brady Plaintiffs submit that the loss of an entire year in a short professional athletic career cannot be recaptured and, therefore, cannot be adequately compensated by damages. Moreover…time spent off the playing and practice fields diminishes playersâ€™ skills. As a result of sitting out a season, they argue, this diminishment in skills could shorten or end the careers of some players.â€
In short, NFL players have short careers and losing any amount of time is harmful to them in a variety of ways.
Third, her court has jurisdiction on the case.
She believes that the players have the right to decertify their union any time they want and it is not an unfair negotiating tactic. This is important because the league has argued that the decertification was a â€œshamâ€ and that the case should still be in mediation. The league, as we know, is afraid of the court because that is where the players have traditionally gained the most ground.
Because the decertification was legitimate, the judge believes she has jurisdiction. For whatever reason, this took an inordinate amount of proof! I’ll spare you the details.
I like that the judge doesn’t mind smacking the league around a little.
â€œThe League contends that none of the four factors relevant to the decision to award preliminary injunctive relief favor the Plaintiffs,â€ she writes. Then: â€œThis Court disagrees.â€
Later: â€œThis Court finds the NFLâ€™s arguments unpersuasive.â€
I love it. Finally, someone with the power to tell a bunch of billionaires, â€œNO! Bad dog!â€
The key question now will be whether the judge elects to stay (or hold off enforcing) her decision while the NFL appeals to a higher court of appeals. Peter King adressed the issue by offering three potential options:
-She could allow the stay, keeping NFL doors locked until the appeals court hears the case.
-She could not allow the stay and order the 2011 league year — with free-agency and player trades — to begin immediately, or within days … which would throw the league into chaos this week as it prepares for the three-day draft to begin Thursday night in New York.
-Or she could allow the Eighth Circuit to rule on the stay, which one legal expert Monday night said would take between two and seven days. In this case, the appeals court could either order the league year to start immediately or wait until the resolution of the case in appeals.
There is no way to know for sure what she’ll decide here, and I won’t pretend to have ANY experience whatsoever. But, after reading her decision and seeing the terse language she used, it is hard to imagine her allowing the lockout to continue during the appeals process.
How could she allow the players to be locked out when she thinks that rookies could suffer harm just by being denied an offseason.
In regards to incoming rookie Von Miller, she writes: â€œUnder a lockout… [he] will not only lose the experience of NFL-level competition and coaching, but, by foregoing training camp, Miller risks losing the opportunity of becoming a starting player, or even to make the team. Thus, it is clear that Plaintiffs have demonstrated a threat of irreparable harm as to rookie players.â€
Hopefully, I’m right and she forces the league to start it’s business year on Tuesday. That would allow the start of free agency, trades, and workouts in a frenzy before Thursday’s draft. And it should get us a little closer to normalcy in the NFL.
“If I am a player, I am organizing a group of teammates to be at the facility door with me,” said Brock Huard. “Win the PR battle, and you can keep winning the war.”
With the judge’s ruling, the players have certianly won a pivotal battle.