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ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports that Judge Susan Nelson has granted a preliminary injunction to the NFL players, lifting the NFL lockout.The league will seek an immediate stay of the injunction pending appeal.
Judge Nelson apparently did not include a stay in her ruling, meaning the league will have to get a stay from 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.
The NFL is now in a huge bind. With the Draft just three days away, this would normally a time for a frenzy of transactions and other business. Trades, free agents signings, roster cuts, new rookie contract signings. But they have no blueprint for how to proceed.
Before they can do anything, they would have to impose a set of rules. With the CBA expired, they could automatically enforce the existing 2010 rules or the new rules based on the last offer they made to players. Or make it up as they go along.
They could do none of those things while they wait for a ruling on the stay, but if they take too long — if they do nothing and don’t let the players return to work — that could be seen as collusion and a violation of Judge Nelson’s ruling, making it even more likely that will lose the anti-trust lawsuit and face even stiffer penalties.
Plus, if they try to impose new 2011 CBA rules that player deem unfair, that could prompt more legal filings by the players, more injunctions from Nelson … and general chaos.
The written ruling is 89 pages, so basically nobody knows anything at this point.
UPDATE: Here are the key points directly from Judge Nelson’s ruling: (If you’d like to read the whole thing, go here.)
1. The Players Have Demonstrated They Are Suffering, And Will Continue To Suffer, Irreparable Harm (Tough to argue that.)
2. The Irreparable Harm To The Players Outweighs Any Harm An Injunction Would Cause the NFL. (Again pretty obvious. The owners can still make money, but the players cannot.)
3. The Players Have Established A Fair Chance of Success on The Merits
(In other words, they players have PROVED the irreparable anti-trust harm yet, but they have a pretty good shot. ecent chance to win the lawsuit straight up. So it should be allowed to go forward.
The NFL argued that the National labour Relations Board should have jurisdiction on this dispute, but Judge Nelson didn’t buy that. This is mostly due to their claim that the union’s de-certification was a “sham” and the union should be forced to negotiate as a union.
Nelson ruled that union has just as much right to stop being a union, as they did to organise in the first place. There were real consequences to their decertification and they accepted them willingly. The lawsuit can go forward and the players have a good case.
4. The Public Interest Does Not favour The “Lockout” (Duh. So there’s no reason to keep it going, even pending an appeal.)
UPDATE: The NFL confirms they will appeal, first to Judge Nelson (who will almost certainly reject) then to the 8th Circuit.