Lockout Lifted: What Does It Mean?

As we saw yesterday from creanium, Judge Nelson granted the players' motion for a temporary restraining order/preliminary injunction lifting the lockout. As of right now, the NFL is open for business and players are legally free to contact coaches and staff members, and to use team facilities. Such has already taken place, though some were met with limited success. So what does this mean going forward?

For the moment, no one is sure. The NFL is going to appeal the judge's ruling and ask for a stay pending the outcome of the appeal. If a stay is granted, the judge's ruling would have no effect until the appeal process is complete. While many media outlets I have read treat this as if it's a foregone conclusion that a stay will be granted, this isn't necessarily the case. In most instances of temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions, a stay is NOT granted pending an appeal. The decision to grant a stay is within the appellate court's discretion, so it could certainly happen. But whether it will is an open question.

 

No matter what happens with the stay, the appeals process will go forward now. This won't decide the heart of the players' lawsuit--it will merely decide whether the District Court's decision to lift the lockout pending the outcome of the main lawsuit will remain in effect. The smart money is that the appellate court will affirm the district court, and the lockout will remain lifted. The NFL has lost nearly every legal action brought against it on anti-trust grounds over the years, and there is no reason to believe this will be an exception. Essentially, the owners don't have much of a legal ground to stand on, regardless whatever they say to the press.

Meanwhile, the two sides continue to meet and negotiate in mediation. The fact that the players continue to win these types of legal encounters will probably push the owners to reach a settlement before they lose even more. If they eventually lose the main lawsuit, which they probably will, the court will have the discretion to levy enormous monetary damages, and impose terms that would be very unfavorable to the owners. They'll want to avoid that at all costs, which, hopefully, will push them to compromise and reach a deal before it's too late.

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