SAINT PAUL, MN - APRIL 6: Former NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith leaves following a hearing at the U.S. Courthouse on April 6, 2011 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. NFL players have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL owners after labor talks between the two broke down last month. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Things are starting to happen in the ongoing labor dispute between the owners and players, albeit slowly. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson heard each side's argument for and against the players' motion to lift the lockout. In the meantime, she's ordered the parties to return to mediation. What's going on?
When the players' union decertified, the owners locked out the players, meaning they prevented them from returning to work. The players, in response, filed an anti-trust lawsuit against the owners claiming that the lockout violated antitrust laws. In addition to their suit, the players also filed for a temporary restraining order (TRO) to lift the lockout while the lawsuit progresses. That's what the hearing last week was about, and the Judge indicated she'd rule within a couple weeks. She wants the parties to continue to meet while she considers it, in order to try and work something out.
In practice, this really doesn't mean much. It's exceedingly unlikely that the sides will figure anything out now that they were unable to before. We're going to have to wait at least until Judge Nelson rules on the TRO for anything significant to happen. So we won't know until at least May what's going to happen next.