8th Circuit Rules That the NFL Lockout Is Legal

By a 2-1 vote, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit has ruled the NFL lockout is legal, overturning the April 25 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson to grant the Players’ motion to enjoin the lockout.

“We conclude that the injunction did not conform to the provisions of the Norris LaGuardia Act,” the majority read. “We therefore conclude that the injunction as a whole must be vacated…

“The district court’s order of April 25, 2011, granting a preliminary injunction is vacated, and the case is remanded for further proceedings.”

Judge Kermit Bye dissented.

Today’s decision was surprising only in its timing, as NFL players and owners, under the guidance of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, have been working towards a new collective bargaining agreement. With reports that the two sides are close to an agreement, the 8th Circuit has now provided owners with a clear advantage in these talks.

Two items in the players’ favor is that rookies and free agents, i.e. players not under contract, may not be locked out, and that their antitrust case against the league is allowed to move forward.

On the rookies/free agent front, Judge Nelson must hold a hearing to introduce testimony and evidence before imposing an injunction pertaining to players not under contract, which would take a few weeks before a ruling requiring the league to negotiate with and sign free agents and rookies without contracts.

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