As I finished my workout (free weights and a treadmill), I grabbed my Iphone to find out 63 minutes had passed and federal Judge Susan Richard Nelson had indeed lifted the lockout. This is a perfect example that the world goes on with or without you.
My friends on Twitter that I follow are slamming home the most current and up to date information on the NFL vs. NFLPA (trade association). My followers are asking me what is next on the agenda, and I have yet to answer. As I race home with one hand on the wheel and the other on the Iphone, I start calling my sources and by the time I get back to my house and grab the laptop, the social media outlets and the information super highway are in full flow.
As you undoubtedly know by now, Judge Nelson ruled in favor of the players in the Tom Brady vs. antitrust lawsuit, lifting the lockout. In the conclusion of her finding, Judge Nelson wrote, “The public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales.”
Judge Nelson also said, “Of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football – who have a strong investment in the 2011 season – is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation.”
With the draft coming up on Thursday, this ruling and the timing of it is very interesting. Has free agency started and can trades take place prior to the draft? After doing my research, the answer is absolutely. There is a very tight window, a window that will only be open until a stay is ruled upon. Movement is possible, but not likely.
The NFL was prepared for this ruling and filed an appeal for a stay, which removes the force of Judge Nelson’s ruling. If that is denied, the league will take it to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to grant a stay to keep the lockout in place while the NFL appeals Nelson’s ruling on the injunction.
The Judge also stated, “The Brady Plaintiffs have 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 to the ruling by saying in a statement, “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 labor 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.”
This is what the fans around the globe that follow NFL football wanted to hear. “If the owners lose in their quest to have a stay ordered pending an appeal, the 2011 league year would begin, and player movement could commence.” Not only the fans, but the hundreds of free agents floating in limbo could sign on with a new team or re-sign with their old club.
If Judge Nelson’s ruling is not “stayed,” the NFL is expected to begin operation under the 2010 rules that required a free agent to have at least six accrued seasons to be eligible for unrestricted free agency, and would acknowledge franchise tags and tendered offers to restricted free agents.
NFLPA executive director and co-class counsel DeMaurice Smith said after the ruling, “I’m happy for our players and for our fans. Today, those who love football are winners.”
How this affects the draft is yet to be determined, but I think all bets are off on trading players prior to the Thursday night kickoff at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. As far as players currently under contract, the owners would have no choice but to allow them into team facilities.
The NFL finds themselves in one of the toughest wrestling moves and struggle to get out of in this full nelson.