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Federal Judge To Hear Arguments In Case That Could Halt NFL Lockout

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The NFL legal road show gets underway this morning in a federal courtroom in St. Paul, where the league squares off against two sets of players seeking to lift the nearly month-old lockout and accusing the league of antitrust violations. The hearing begins at 9:30am CT and should wrap up by noon. NFL lawyers are expected to brief the media after the hearing. At stake is not just whether the '11 season will start on time – or at all – but the economic and dispute-resolution systems the league will operate under for years to come.

Whenever Judge Susan Nelson decides, and sources within football say a decision might come as early as Monday, the loser is sure to appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, ensuring the legal drama does not reside only in Minnesota. A class of 10 players (nine active and one incoming) are suing to lift the lockout and alleging the league’s restrictions on player movement are antitrust violations, while a group of four retirees and one incoming player are suing to protect the rights of non-active players.

At issue immediately is an injunction request to lift the lockout (the former players are asking for the NFL Draft to be halted). The NFL contends the court does not have jurisdiction over labor disputes and that the NLRB must first decide whether the former union’s decertification, necessary to bring antitrust cases, is valid. The players reject those contentions.
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