League resumes lockout
Appeals court ruling overrides union gain
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — The NFL lockout is back.
The league announced the move last night, hours after a key courtroom victory. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press that teams “have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately.’’
Earlier, the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted the NFL’s request for a temporary stay of the injunction that lifted the 45-day lockout. Arguments will be heard as early as next week on whether that order from a federal judge in Minnesota should be overturned altogether.
The NFL’s announcement came during the NFL draft, not long after the third round wrapped up, and on the very day players were allowed to return to their teams’ facilities for the first time since March. Dozens if not hundreds of players happily met with coaches, worked out, and got a peek at their playbooks.
“Nobody’s happy about any of this,’’ Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “But it is what it is. The lockout is back into effect.’’
Jets wide receiver Braylon Edwards, scheduled to become a free agent, put it simply on Twitter: “Looks like we’re unemployed again.’’
The 2-1 decision from a panel of the 8th Circuit was issued by Judges Steven Colloton, Kermit Bye, and Duane Benton. It included a lengthy dissent from Bye, who suggested temporary stays should be issued only in emergencies.
The ruling was the first victory for the NFL in the bitter labor fight. It came in a venue considered more conservative and favorable to businesses than the federal courts in Minnesota, where the collective bargaining system was established in the early 1990s and judges have generally favored players over the NFL.
Colloton and Benton were appointed by President George W. Bush. Bye was appointed by President Clinton.
Jim Quinn, the lead attorney for the players, downplayed yesterday’s order.
“Routine grant of stay and totally expected,’’ he said. “The only surprise is that Judge Bye is so strongly against giving them even a tiny stay because the league obviously can’t show it is necessary.’’
Bye wrote: “The NFL has not persuaded me this is the type of emergency situation which justifies the grant of a temporary stay of the district court’s order pending our decision on a motion for a stay itself. If we ultimately grant the motion for a stay, the NFL can easily reestablish its lockout.’’
Bye also said the league hadn’t shown proof it would suffer irreparable harm without a lockout in place and had asked for the stay so it wouldn’t be forced to run its $9 billion business without a collective bargaining agreement in place.
“The NFL claimed such operations would be ‘a complex process that requires time to coordinate,’ ’’ Bye wrote. “This contention is severely undermined by the fact that the NFL had, within a day of the district court’s order denying a stay, already planned post-injunction operations which would allow the players to have access to club and workout facilities, receive playbooks, meet with coaches and so forth.
“Because I expect our court will be resolving the actual request for a stay in short order, I see little practical need for granting an emergency temporary stay in this non-emergency situation.’’
The appeals court is expected to rule next week on the NFL’s request for a more permanent stay that would last through its appeal of the injunction. That process is expected to take 6-8 weeks.
The order was just the latest in a dizzying week of legal wrangling. US District Judge Susan Richard Nelson late Monday ordered the end of the lockout, calling it illegal, and she denied the NFL’s appeal Wednesday.