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The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Friday gave the NFL a "temporary delay of an injunction to stop the lockout, effectively reinstalling it hours after the players were allowed to return to the teams for workouts and meetings," according to Judy Battista of the N.Y. TIMES. The court in a 2-1 decision "granted the league's request for the temporary stay while the panel takes more time to decide on a request for a full stay," which is "likely" to come this week. The temporary stay "does not necessarily mean the NFL will be successful getting the full stay, or that it will win the appeal." But the ruling provided the league a "long-awaited, albeit small, victory." The timing of the decision "surprised even league officials, many of whom were assembled at Radio City Music Hall for the draft and who thought they might not hear about the stay until Monday." Players were "curious about how long the stay might last; one Jets player even asked if he should still report to the team's training facility on Monday" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/30). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch noted "more clarity is likely to come by Thursday." The court said that the stay was temporary "until it can fully assess the owners' longshot bid for a permanent injunction that would keep the lockout in place until a decision on the larger issues is reached in June or July." The court's decision was "far from a ringing endorsement of the owners' legal stance." Still, players "remain wary of the decidedly conservative 8th Circuit Court and the possibility it could rule in favor of the owners on the permanent injunction" (N.Y. POST, 4/30). Players counsel James Quinn in an e-mail said the temporary stay was "routine and totally expected" (L.A. TIMES, 4/30). Packers GM Ted Thompson said, "Nobody's happy about any of this. But it is what it is. The lockout is back into effect" (AP, 4/29).
BRADY SPEAKS: In Boston, Ian Rapoport noted as the "lead plaintiff in the former union's antitrust lawsuit against the owners," Patriots QB Tom Brady's "opinion is an important one." Speaking publicly about the suit for the first time on Friday, Brady said, "I've been very fortunate as a player to sign the contracts that I've signed, to be in the position that I'm in as a leader. When the opportunity was presented to me, and Peyton (Manning) and Drew Brees (joined) -- we represent the entire group. We're all trying to be part of the solution, not the problem. I know a lot of people are hard at work." He added, "Everyone's trying to accomplish the same thing. Hopefully there's an agreement at some point soon" (BOSTON HERALD, 4/30). When asked if there will be an '11 season, Brady said, "I think there's certainly a lot of hopes. There's certainly been progress made over the last three months. There needs to be some resolutions to what the owners want, to what the players want" (USA TODAY, 5/2). CNBC's Darren Rovell noted Brady and Patriots Owner Robert Kraft are "close" and that Kraft is "very well involved with the owners" as one of the "most powerful owners." When asked if that has made it "awkward," Brady said, "It hasn't and I think our relationship is much deeper than that. I don't think it's Tom Brady suing Robert Kraft. I'm a player and I represent the 1,500 players ... and he's been an owner for a long time. He understands what the business of football is as well. It's certainly not personal" ("Squawk on the Street," CNBC, 4/29).
Pouncey says he did not receive playbook
during visit with Dolphins following draft
NO TEAM TO CHEER FOR: In N.Y., Gary Myers wrote there are "no heroes" in the labor dispute. Myers: "The players are wrong. The owners are wrong. There is nobody on either side to root for." Football fans "are not the only ones being jerked around." Myers: "So are coaches trying to figure out minicamp schedules and work rookies into their programs. So are general managers ready to put their free agency plans in place" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/1). Myers Saturday wrote the labor situation "has become so ridiculous it would be almost laughable if it affected only the billionaire owners and millionaire players." He added, "So many people depend on the games being played to make ends meet ... that the on-again, off-again is not only a tease to football fans, but could cause huge financial problems for people who can't afford it" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 4/30). In Orlando, George Diaz writes, "People don't like to be jerked around by two greedy groups of rich guys fighting over control of [an] empire that generates more than $9 billion in annual revenue." Diaz: "Please just ignore the excessive extravagance of a three-day spectacle called the NFL Draft. It pretty much looks like a non-story to me if you recruit new employees for a business that is shut down" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/2). In N.Y., Mike Lupica wrote, "Boo all you want about the doors being closed right now. You don't matter. All that matters is the doors being opened the night of Sept. 8. The day the start of the season is in actual jeopardy is the day they all get out of District Courts and Appeals Courts and make a deal" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/1).ESPN.com's Howard Bryant said, "What kills me about it is you listen to Roger Goodell, who says he's frustrated -- This is what you asked for. This is what you wanted. You created this lockout, you created these terms, prepared for it for years. ... You're getting exactly what you want, and the rest of it is posturing" ("The Sports Reporters," ESPN, 5/1).
The NFL in a court filing with the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals this morning blasted the district court judge who last week ruled to lift the lockout for failing to conduct evidence hearings on whether the NFLPA’s decertification was valid, and whether players were truly suffering irreparable harm. The 8th Circuit could rule now at any moment whether to stay the injunction lifting the lockout on appeal, or turn down the NFL’s request. U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson ruled that because the union had decertified, the league under antitrust rules could not lock out the players. Labor laws require decertifications, or disclaimers, to be adhered to, so the NFLPA’s previous decertification in the early ‘90s could have been an issue. Nelson relied on an affidavit from former NFLPA Exec Dir Gene Upshaw, that the league had required the recertification to do a new labor deal. The league called this an “an inapt assertion contradicted by Judge Doty’s contemporaneous finding that the NFL had no role in the 'recertification.'” Doty oversaw the antitrust cases of the early '90s and later oversaw the now defunct CBA. Similarly, the league asked how Nelson could find the players were suffering irreparable harm when she only relied on their affidavits and did not take up the NFL’s lawyer’s request for a hearing.
PLAYERS BEING USED AS EXAMPLES: As part of these arguments the league for the first time began using individual players as examples, a tactic the league has largely avoided in the past. For example, the league used quotes from Chiefs LB Mike Vrabel and Cardinals K Jay Feely that suggested the NFLPA was still operating. And the league cited quotes from Ravens LB Ray Lewis and Patriots WR Wes Welker talking about how they were enjoying the lockout. “The ‘evidence’ of harm on which the District Court relied consisted primarily of the conclusory opinions of the NFLPA’s General Counsel and some player agents,” the league contended. “The NFL asked for, but did not receive, the opportunity to challenge those assertions on cross-examination at an evidentiary hearing. … Notably, not a single plaintiff attested to any harm being suffered.” From a big picture, the league contended that if the NFLPA were just able to disclaim and in the next moment file an antitrust lawsuit, collective bargaining across the country would be hurt. And the league looked to rebut arguments that by planning for a season, this was proof denying the stay would not irreparably harm the league while the appeal is heard. The league wrote it created the rules under threat of contempt, and free agency had still not been implemented. The league suggested that the 8th Circuit could rule by next month or early July.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was "hit with a wave of boos" when he took the stage Thursday at the NFL Draft, and Friday Goodell said that he "understands the fans' feelings," according to Greg Logan of NEWSDAY. Goodell, during a conference call with Jets season-ticket holders, said, "I hear it directly from them. They want football. I want football. That was a clear indication of me not being able to solve that (labor situation). That's my responsibility, and I accept it" (NEWSDAY, 4/30). In Charlotte, Scott Fowler wrote the "utter venom" directed at Goodell "by fans before Thursday's first round really surprised me." Fowler: "I know it sounded loud on TV, but it was nearly deafening inside Radio City Music Hall" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/30). In Chicago, Vaughn McClure noted Goodell was "cheered by the fans when introduced" at the Bears Expo at Soldier Field on Saturday (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/1).
FACING THE MUSIC: CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman noted Goodell was "greeted by some raw anger" at the Draft. But then "something strange happened." Goodell signed autographs and "took picture after picture." Fan anger "subsided and the same people who were expressing their rage began to whip out pens, paper and hats for Goodell to sign." Freeman: "Of course part of this is for public-relations purposes. The league never has missed an opportunity for that, but Goodell still deserves credit for going into the lion's den. … It took some guts for Goodell to make that trek with so many fans infuriated by the lockout. Infuriated, specifically, with him." Goodell is the "spokesman for the owners." He has "attempted to sway fan sentiment toward his side and, frankly, that mission has failed." But Freeman wrote, "In moments like the one here at Radio City he has the ability to win fans over" (CBSSPORTS.com, 4/30). In DC, Sally Jenkins wrote, "You had to respect Goodell's aplomb and good nature in dealing with the social awkwardness, as well as the jeering displeasure of frustrated fans." The commissioner "clearly understood the power of the moment for young men who worked their whole lives to be chosen in the first round, and he translated it with exuberant, rib-cracking embraces, throwing out his arms to induct them into the brotherhood." Jenkins: "It was obviously the nicest part of his job, and he did it with deep feeling" (WASHINGTON POST, 4/30).
The reason MLB "has labor peace" at the moment is because Commissioner Bud Selig, "of all people, has spent the past decade setting up a system that somehow makes both players and owners happy," according to the N.Y. MAGAZINE's Will Leitch, who profiles Selig under the subhead, "Contrary to his hapless image, baseball’s chief is the most effective commissioner in sports." A month into the '11 season, MLB is "making more money than it ever has and is set up to make even more." In addition, Selig "has fostered unprecedented unanimity among the game’s 30 disparate owners; unlike in the NFL, the flowing cash has kept owners content rather than bloodthirsty." MLB is "close to passing the NFL -- the supposed Goliath of American sports -- in total revenue," reaching $6.6B for '09, just behind the NFL’s $8B. MLB's revenue in '00 was "half that." Baseball "is catching up," and it is "doing it stealthily, while achieving labor peace and competitive balance." Confident because of his "recent successes, Selig is starting to take charge more over the owners," specifically regarding the Dodgers. Leitch notes Selig "will always be a polarizing figure." But when you "clear out the public-relations gaffes and the ugly ties," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NBA Commissioner David Stern "would love to be in Selig’s position right now, with happy owners, happy players, and more fans than ever" (N.Y. MAGAZINE, 5/9 issue).
BUD, NICE: SI's Joe Posnanski also profiles Selig and writes, "Nobody has changed a sport more than he has changed baseball the last 20 years." It seems that people "never credit Selig enough for his backroom ability to twist arms, push his agenda and simply do whatever he thinks he should do." Selig said, "Yes, I know what people say about me. I try not to be sensitive about it, but I am human. I know people say that I'm indecisive or that I move slowly. But I learned a long time ago, that doesn't matter. Getting things done is what matters. You have to know how to get things done" (SI, 5/2 issue).
Magic G and player rep Chris Duhon said on a scale from 1-10, the chance of an NBA lockout this summer is an "8." Duhon: "We're so far apart. I think it's going to take a while. Right now, we're watching what's going on with the NFL as far as maybe backup plans or anything to help try to speed up the process. But we have a long ways to go." If there is a lockout, Duhon said that the NBPA is "trying to set up locations around the country where players can train and have access to strength-and-conditioning specialists and athletic trainers" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 5/1). Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Howard Bryant said of the NFL lockout, "One court ended the lockout, the NFL found another to keep it going. You know who should be paying the most attention to this? David Stern" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/1).
NOTHING TO SEE HERE: F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone said that News Corp "would effectively be blocked from buying his racing series due to an agreement he has made with the European Commission." Following speculation that News Corp could make a bid for F1, Ecclestone said, "I'm sure the European Commission wouldn't let it go through because our agreement with them was to keep F1 on free-to-air television." In London, Sylt & Reid noted Ecclestone believes F1 to be worth $6-7B, which "would make it hard for News Corp to justify the purchase knowing it would then be forced to allow its free-to-air rivals to broadcast the racing series" (London INDEPENDENT, 4/30).
UNITED WE STAND: In Charlotte, Jim Utter reported under a new program named "NASCAR Unites," the NASCAR Foundation "will help focus attention on initiatives to improve the lives of children." Along with "continuing its annual NASCAR Day program, the foundation this summer will encourage fans to pledge at least five hours of volunteer service to help generate more then a million hours of giving back to local communities" (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 4/30). The NASCAR Foundation will give $1M to children's charities this year (AP, 4/30).
WELCOME TO RIO: The NBA, the city of Rio de Janeiro, Inter-American Development Bank and the FC Barcelona Foundation have announced an initiative to improve the lives of underprivileged children in Rio. The "Alliance for Sport and Development" is designed to strength 18 "Villa Olimpicas" in the city by promoting social inclusion through sports (NBA).