SBD/June 7, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 88: League Asks Court To Dismiss Brady Antitrust Suit

The NFL asked a federal court late yesterday to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit filed against the league on March 11 by 10 players. U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson set a September 12 hearing on the motion. The NFL’s reply was due yesterday to the lawsuit, Brady, et al, v. NFL, which seeks to remove most free agency restrictions. The NFL in a two-page filing said it was seeking the dismissal “for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (in whole or in part), or, in the alternative, for an order dismissing or staying the cases.” The cases refer to both the lawsuit brought by the Brady class, as well a separate one brought by four retired players. The NFL had asked the court to delay its reply until early July, when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals may have ruled on the league’s appeal to overturn Nelson’s injunction lifting the lockout. The 8th Circuit has already stayed that ruling, and the league contended the appeal decision might provide the justification for dismissal of the antitrust lawsuit. The league apparently felt it already had enough justification to file the motion to dismiss. September 12 is the day after the first Sunday of the scheduled regular season. It is also six months and one day after the NFLPA decertified. That is significant because Judge Duane Benton, in questioning the NFL lawyer last week during the 8th Circuit appeal hearing, suggested six months might make sense as a grace period before the NFL’s exemption from antitrust laws under the labor laws might expire. The NFL asked for a year after decertification before the players would gain access to the antitrust laws (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

GOING ABOUT IT THE WRONG WAY: ESPN.com's Mike Sando wrote some NFL coaches "resent the fact" that the NFLCA filed an amicus brief last month in support of the players "without soliciting more input from coaches or at least getting ahead of the story through better public relations." NFLCA Exec Dir Larry Kennan indicated that he "followed standard procedure, going through his executive committee and emailing all coaches, including head coaches, with the necessary info." But Sando noted "quite a few have been on vacation, and some felt this was a bad time to make waves." The Redskins were the first team to speak out against the NFLCA filing, and Kennan said, "Once the Redskins did this, the owners have gotten to their guys and said, 'We need this, too.' What are the coaches going to do, say no?" Sando: "I suspect Kennan underestimated the response this filing has generated. In retrospect, he should have finessed this story from the front end, better informing his membership" (ESPN.com, 6/6).

SUMMER CAMP: In Rochester, Sal Maiorana noted this is the last year of the Bills' training camp agreement with St. John Fisher College, so it is "possible that if the lockout stretches through the summer and there's no camp in Pittsford, there may not be another one, at least not in the near future." Bills CEO Russ Brandon said, "We're in continuous discussion about extending the agreement. Rochester is very important to us regionally and it has been a phenomenal partnership and relationship" (ROCHESTER DEMOCRAT & CHRONICLE, 6/5). Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Tom Orsborn noted the Alamodome is "holding open 20 days" for the Cowboys' training camp this year. San Antonio Dir of Convention, Sports & Entertainment Facilities Michael Sawaya said that the Cowboys "have informed him that, should the lockout end in time for teams to train in normal fashion, camp tentatively would run from July 25 through Aug. 13." This is the "final year of the Cowboys' five-year, rent-free contract with the Alamodome." Sawaya said that the city "would not seek compensation for lost parking and concessions revenue should camp be canceled" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 6/4).
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