Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Apr 2011

Judge Nelson Denies NFL's Request For Stay

According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson has denied the NFL's request for a stay of the lockout she lifted on Monday. The NFL wanted Nelson to keep the lockout in place while they appeal her ruling, but Nelson wrote the league "has not met its burden for a stay pending appeal, expedited or otherwise."

The NFLPA argued that a continuation of the lockout would do "irreparable harm" to the players.

To the delight of players and their agents, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Judge Nelson has ordered the NFL to start its league year immediately, though the league is ready to file an appeal with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, who will be asked to grant the stay.

Posted by: Brian McIntyre on 27 Apr 2011

29 comments, Last at 29 Apr 2011, 5:54pm by Jerry


by loneweasel (not verified) :: Wed, 04/27/2011 - 11:06pm

2008 Lions >>> NFL legal team

At least Detroit won some preseason games that year.

by cisforcookie (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 3:46am

I'm sick of this story and the way the media paints this as anything other than directly the fault of our elected government.

what's the point in having labour unions if employers don't need to bargain in good faith anymore? this lawsuit is just the natural consequence of gutting the labour laws in this country.

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 4:16am

But the judge ruled in favor of the players... I'm so confused right now.

by Whatev :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 4:38am

Don't worry about it, tuluse.

by Anonymous roiiojadfiojij' (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 1:04pm

Federal judges aren't elected, they are appointed by the president. Maybe cisforcookie is from Madison and he's just blowing off steam. If he were talking about that situation, I would have to agree with him but here it sounds pretty bizarre.

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 5:04pm

Judges aren't elected, but they enforce the laws which elected representatives have passed.

by Anonymous (not verified) (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 8:18am

Said while using a spelling of "labor" that is not found in the US.

Are you an American using the international english spelling, or is your use of "this country" a misnomer, being that you are elsewhere?

by Alexander :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 5:25pm

My problem with the ruling in general: If players have the ability to strike, shouldn't owners have some similar ability to effectuate their ideas(i.e. lockout)?

by tuluse :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 5:35pm

The problem here is that the NFL is a monopoly. If they were just your everyday 9 billion dollar a year company, they could lockout anyone they wanted. However, because they are a monopoly, they have to deal with special anti-trust rules.

Also, since the players are no longer part of a union, I'm not sure what the rules about striking are.

by Alexander :: Fri, 04/29/2011 - 12:24am

Well if the players can basically decertify and re-certify whenever they want to they are basically having their cake and eating it too.

Union when you want to strike, nonunion to stave off a lockout.

by TV_Pete (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:09am

If there is no cap, does that also mean that there is no minimum (above minimum wage) that a player could be paid?

Does this also mean that a team could decide to spend only $10 Million dollars on its entire team?

That might mean far fewer top end players, but might make for a much more profitable team due to the profit-sharing of TV.

I think at least one NFL team (especially those complaining about being less profitable) should consider this immediately and speak about consider it. They could even promote it to the fans that if they are allowed to do this they will be able to drastically reduce the cost of playing.

by coboney :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:25am

Correct - that happened last year as well. With no cap there is no salary floor - or required money spending which if i recall correctly is a slightly different area in it.

That's one reason why the players aren't in such a hurry to get rid of the cap anymore - without a floor they can lose a lot.

by Anonymous1 (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 2:20pm

He's not asking about a salary floor, he's asking if there is are salary minimums anymore. The way I understand it, the NFL will be allowed to implement any rules they wish to, but if the rules are declared to be antitrust violations, the NFL will lose triple damages to the players. So the NFL needs to be careful to enact rules that are fair and will hold up to scrutiny.

TLDR version: We'll see.

by nat :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:13am

This article in the Washington Post reports that the league is apparantly defying the court order by telling teams to NOT begin free agent signings or similar business.

It appears that the league is afraid that anything they might be willing to do would be construed as violating antitrust laws. But how a trade and signing prohibition would be deemded anything but restraint of trade is unclear, to put it mildly.

The rub is that phrase "willing to do". There is plenty they could do that would be legal, but it would break the league's highly profitable business model. Or, to put it another way, up to now the league's business model depended on a good relationship with a compliant player's union.

Now they have a dead goose on their hands, and are wondering where all those golden eggs came from.

by Hank Hardy Unruh (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:22am

I posted something to this effect in the "NFL Owners Act Like They're Above The Law" thread, but couldn't some owners take advantage of this ruling by starting business and getting a jump on free agency and player training? I'm thinking about owners who don't care what others think, like Al Davis and Jerry Jones.

by NZ (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:34am

So is there going to be a draft? It seems to be me that the draft, under normal labor law is very illegal. With no union what is to stop anyone who is drafted from saying 'It is illegal for you to stop me from negotiating with multiple employers, so I am seeing you'. As I understand it the going rate in labor disputes is 3x damages. So lets say I am a 6th or 7th round pick who is borderline to stick on a roster. What's the incentive not to sue for 3x what a player in a similar position made last year? I am pretty clearly in the right as it is very clear that the 32 separate firms that make up the NFL colluded to stop me from working unless I agree to work for one specific firm.

That is alot of risk to take on.

by NZ (not verified) :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:36am

Sorry, that 'seeing' should read 'suing'

by talys :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 5:19pm

According to Florio over at PFT, the previous CBA covered this year's draft so this year's draft is safe. But that's a valid point going forward.

by CoachDave :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 10:56am

This comment from the article was enlightening to me:

"In her ruling Wednesday denying the league’s request to her for a stay of her injunction, Nelson said the NFL must decide for itself what to do about free agency.

“This Court’s Order does not obligate the NFL to enter into contracts, nor does it proscribe the League’s non-lockout conduct in general,” Nelson wrote. “Like any defendant in any lawsuit, Defendants themselves must make a decision about how to proceed and accept the consequences of their decision.”

by nat :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 11:07am

I saw that, too. It's essentially saying "this ruling does not give you safe haven regarding your contract negotiations", and "you are to play by the same rules as any other defendant in a lawsuit: step carefully and don't break the law, and no, I'm not going to instruct you on how to do that."

The league is not obligated to enter into contracts - more precisely the teams of the league are not so obligated. But if they violate antitrust or labor laws in their actions, they must accept the consequences of doing so.

Enlightening, indeed. The core message: You guys are not a "special case" under the law. Deal with it.

by JasonK :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 11:46am

Also a subtext: Artificial restraints on unsigned players (Franchise & Transition Tags, Restricted and Exclusive-Rights Free Agents) are an express ticket to Treble-Damages Town. And although the Court can't make the League enter into contracts, an '80s-MLB-style collusion system ain't gonna fly, either.

Who opens the bidding on Peyton Manning?

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 12:35pm

I'm not sure collusion is necessary for teams not to rush out and sign free agents. At this point, not enough is known about the conditions under which teams will be operating in the future - particularly in regard to whether there will be a salary cap - for it to be rational to take on expensive new employees at this point.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 11:38am

I have to admit I do love the bizarre argument that the league put forward that the reason the need a stay on the enjoinment is that they would suffer irreparable harm if the lockout was cancelled. This comes a good week or two after they had released the schedule (and Goodell had declared the league's intention to play it in its entireity) and a day before they were about to hold the collegiate draft. Yet somehow not being able to lock the players out consitutes irreparable harm?

Which idiots signed off on that one?

by Shattenjager :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 12:24pm

Irreparable harm is a required showing to get a stay.

by GlennW :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 2:03pm

In context "irreparable harm" means being forced into a temporary labor arrangement that the owners didn't agree to or have little control over. Financially, I think it's a fairly weak argument for such a profitable business-- it's not what they want, but there's not much harm in playing even an entire season under similar rules, much less "irreparable" harm. Legally, the owners are claiming that they're being forced into unknown antitrust risk. Again, seems weak. Behave yourselves, don't collude, and you'll probably be okay. I believe that the judge correctly surmised that the lockout was first and foremost about dropping the hammer on the players.

As for releasing the schedule and holding the draft though, I see little connection to the lockout issue. It's not as if the owners aren't being upfront about the season being dependent on a new CBA. They've been totally consistent on the notion of no CBA, no play.

by Jimmy :: Thu, 04/28/2011 - 2:29pm

It just seems completely fatuous to release a schedule and hold a collegiate draft whilst locking the players out and then claim that you are being damaged by not being able to carry on locking them out.

by RickD :: Fri, 04/29/2011 - 4:20pm

Misread the headline.
Thought for some reason Judd Nelson had denied NFL's Request for a stay.

by Jerry :: Fri, 04/29/2011 - 5:54pm

I guess he just didn't have the room.