SBD/April 5, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 25: Tomorrow's Hearing To Set Path For Immediate Future

The hearing before U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson tomorrow in St. Paul "will begin to determine how millions of NFL fans ... spend this summer and fall," according to Mark Maske of the WASHINGTON POST. When Nelson "takes up NFL players' request to lift the lockout imposed by NFL owners March 12, she will begin to set a course for America's most popular sport and the people whose lives are shaped by it." She "could soon decide whether the NFL goes back to business while owners and players battle in court; whether to wait for the results of a possibly time-consuming National Labor Relations Board process; whether the players' decision to dissolve their labor union is valid and whether the owners are violating the players' rights." Or "perhaps she will attempt to help the two sides reach a settlement" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/5). NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler said, "What we hope the ruling will be is an injunction that will stop the lockout. What that means is the NFL will have to tell clubs they're free to negotiate with players, pay players who are under contract, that players are free to come in for offseason workouts." On Long Island, Bob Glauber noted Nelson's decision "isn't likely to come Wednesday, although there is a possibility that she could 'rule from the bench' and grant an immediate injunction." Most cases, however, "are decided in a week or two." Another potential outcome is that Nelson "grants the injunction but issues a stay, in which case the lockout would continue pending an appeal in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals" (NEWSDAY, 4/3).

Boies will play important part on NFL's
legal team if case ends up in appellate court
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
: SI.com's Peter King wrote of tomorrow's hearing, "I'll just assume the judge will make a ruling here. ... I'd say it's 3-2 she'll rule for the players, telling owners they have to open their doors and conduct business as usual. At that point, the NFL would appeal." NFL outside counsel David Boies, "hired by the NFL for just such cases," would then go in and "try to convince three judges that the league is within its rights." King wrote, "The odds there? Maybe 6-5, owners. If that happens, then the players will continue to be locked out." For the "new league year to begin, and for free agency and trades to be allowed, the players would have to win in front of the appeals court." It is "still highly likely that a new league year could begin before" the April 28 NFL Draft. After that the "next interesting date on the legal calendar is May 12," when U.S. District Judge David Doty "will hear arguments on potential damages in the television case" (SI.com, 4/3).

LEADING THE CHARGE: In N.Y., Judy Battista noted Boies tomorrow "will present the NFL's argument against the players' request for an injunction to stop the league's lockout." Former Solicitor General Theodore Olson said of Boies, "This seems right up his alley. It's a dynamic, challenging issue that affects a great deal of America. And it's groundbreaking. He loves that sort of thing. It tests his skill, imagination and creativity. I just doubt there's anything that excites him more professionally than that kind of intellectual challenge." Boies' work in sports "has been overshadowed by his other closely followed cases, and much of his public profile revolves around his reputation as a liberal-leaning Democrat." But he "has long advised the Yankees," and Yankees President Randy Levine said, "He's brilliant. He has great common sense. He's an all-star" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/4).

NFL DONATING TO CHARITIES OF BREES, MANNING: The NFL shortly will announce $1M of grants to player charities, including those of Saints QB Drew Brees and Colts QB Peyton Manning, who are suing the league for antitrust violations. Tomorrow’s hearing about why the lockout should be lifted and that the league is guilty of antitrust violations apparently did not dissuade the league from awarding up to $50,000 each to Manning’s PeyBack Foundation, and to The Brees Dream Foundation. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “We are proud to support current and former player foundations and applaud all players’ efforts to make their communities healthy, happy, and safe.” NFL Charities in total is awarding 87 grants of up to $50,000 each to current and former players’ foundations. NFL Charities has awarded more than $17M to player foundations over the course of two decades (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).
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