SBD/April 27, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 47: Players Want NFL To Post $1B Bond If Stay Is Granted

The NFL should have to post a $1B bond if a stay is granted to reinstate the briefly lifted lockout, players suing the NFL contended in court papers this morning. As the football world awaits to see if U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson stays her Monday injunction lifting the lockout, players say the bond is necessary to compensate players for irreparable harm suffered in the period between the stay and the 8th Circuit ruling if it favors the players. The NFL has also suggested it would seek a bond from the players if the stay is not granted, though it has not said how much. The $1B request represents one quarter of last year’s compensation for players. The players in their brief this morning largely talked about the same issues as in the injunction effort: that there is no new legal ground here because since the union decertified the league cannot lockout the players. The players also contend it would be simple for the league to institute a new economic system and one that does not violate antitrust rules, though whether that includes a draft or any free agency restrictions, is unclear. “If the NFL Defendants are faced with a dilemma, they put themselves in that position by repeatedly imposing rules and restrictions that violate the antitrust laws,” the players allege. It is unclear if Nelson will rule today. If the NFL does not get the stay, it will almost certainly immediately seek one with the 8th Circuit, where it has already filed a notice of appeal of the injunction ruling.

NFL WAITING UNTIL DECISION ON STAY: NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash late yesterday afternoon said the league will wait to implement work rules until Nelson decides whether to stay her decision lifting the lockout, and clarifies her ruling. The NFL by 5:00pm CT is scheduled to file its request for clarification of the judge’s ruling. The players did so the night she ruled, on Monday. The issue is while she wrote 89 pages, she did not say when the league year should begin or if there was a preferable economic system. The players in their lawsuit contend most free agency restrictions are antitrust violations. Pash made clear if ordered so by the court, the league would act quickly to start the league year. “We would be prepared to move promptly and ensure that all the clubs have the necessary information and make sure that we acted in a way that was orderly and businesslike and consistent with the court orders.” Pash said the league would comply with any court order, but said if the league did not get the stay from Nelson it would almost surely seek one from the 8th Circuit court of appeals. He also reiterated the league’s belief that it will win on appeal (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

STOP ME IF YOU'RE CONFUSED: In N.Y., Judy Battista notes the NFL was "stuck in a state of confusion Tuesday, one day after an injunction to stop the six-week-long lockout was issued." In the "courts and in meeting rooms, the question was when -- or if -- the NFL would reopen for business, and there seemed little agreement about what to expect in the next few days" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Also in N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes team owners are "holding out thin hope" that the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals "will overturn Nelson's ruling entirely, although that wouldn't happen until June or July" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). An official with the 8th Circuit Court indicated that "even if expedited, the case probably will not be argued until late May at the soonest." A panel of three judges "will be selected randomly from a pool of 11 active and five senior judges to hear the NFL's case," and only one of those is based in St. Louis. Once the judges are assigned, the "two sides will be given time to file briefs with the court." The judges then will "have time to review the information before the hearing, which will be completed in one day" (Stu Durando, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 4/27).

FORECASTING THE OUTCOME: Former National Labor Relations Board Chair William Gould said that the 8th Circuit is "widely viewed as one of the more conservative federal appellate courts, with a tendency to side with business on labor issues." He said, "This has been a very conservative court for a number of years. ... If the owners cannot win in this court, they cannot win anywhere" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/27). Pash yesterday said, "We believe our legal position is meritorious and will be upheld upon appeal" (FOXSPORTS.com, 4/26). Packers President & CEO Mark Murphy: "We think, from a legal standpoint, we’re in a very strong position, particularly as it relates to the injunction" (GREEN BAY PRESS-GAZETTE, 4/27). SI.com's Peter King wrote although there is "going to be a contentious period between players and owners until a bridge is built between the two sides, Nelson's ruling is probably a good sign for people worried that the season wouldn't be played in its entirety this year." Free agent G Logan Mankins said, "I think there's going to be a full season now, and that's good for fans" (SI.com, 4/26).

LOSING PUBLIC SUPPORT: In N.Y., Steve Serby writes the longer the labor battle between owners and players continues, the "smaller both sides become in the eyes of a penny-pinched public that isn't paying obscene prices to endure this unsightly game of public relations tackle football." The longer the lockout lasts, the "more America wakes up to the sorry fact that its only national pastime is Greedball" (N.Y. POST, 4/27). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote, "The NFL now stands for Nonstop Frantic Lunacy. It is the owners, without question, acting like children and the players, fresh off an impressive court victory wondering what the hell just happened" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/26).

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