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Volume 21 No. 2
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Key points during the 4 1/2-month NFL labor standoff

The NFL lockout began on March 12, shortly after the NFL Players Association decertified and funded a players’ antitrust lawsuit against the league. It ended at 10 a.m. ET July 26. Here are some of the key points during the 4 1/2-month labor standoff.

April 6: Oral arguments over the players’ motion to enjoin the lockout occur in Minnesota federal court, before Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

April 11: Nelson orders the two sides into mediation, presided over by Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.

April 25: Nelson rules for the plaintiffs (the players, in Brady v. NFL), enjoining the lockout. The league, minutes later, files a stay request.

April 27: Nelson turns down the stay motion.

April 28 - April 29 (midday): These are perhaps the most crucial, and least appreciated, days of the entire lockout — or, as it happens, the non-lockout days. The players threaten the league with a contempt of court motion if the league year does not begin immediately, but the NFL, certain it will get a stay on appeal, moves slowly. It allows players into team facilities but not to practice. Most importantly, it does not start free agency. Players’ counsel was confident if free agency started, a stay would not stop it. All of this takes place as the 2011 NFL draft begins the night of the 28th and continues on the 29th.

April 29: The NFL at midday gets its interim stay from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, putting the lockout back on.

May 16: Not only does the NFL get a full stay from the 8th Circuit, but it also gets a ringing denouncement of Nelson from the majority in the opinion. The decision is seen as a major legal victory for the NFL and one that likely pushes the players to the table, realizing the lockout would not be lifted.

June 1: In what would be the first in a series of “secret meetings,” the NFL and players renew talks. The meetings, staged over the next six weeks in different locations, would strike gold, breaking down the barrier of trust issues between the two sides.

June 3: The widely anticipated oral arguments before the 8th Circuit in St. Louis over whether to lift the lockout suddenly become second fiddle with the now-not-so-secret talks ongoing. Still, in the hearing, the court warns the parties that neither side might like its decision if they didn’t settle.

July 8: The 8th Circuit releases its decision, and as predicted, the decision delivers something to both sides. The owners get the lockout, the players can continue with the antitrust lawsuit, and the players can petition to Nelson to hold a hearing on whether rookies and free agents should be exempt from the lockout. The decision muddies the waters for the day, but it is quickly forgotten as talks between the two sides continue.

July 21: The owners vote 31-0 (with Oakland abstaining) in favor of what would be a new labor agreement and would also settle all outstanding litigation and end the lockout. Immediately following, many players lambast the NFL for the vote, viewing it as a power play to force the players to make a decision. Players meet via conference call but take no formal action by day’s end.

July 25: The players vote in favor of the deal that would end all litigation against the league, bring forth a new CBA and end the lockout.

July 26: The sides notify Nelson that the antitrust lawsuit has been settled.
Thursday, Aug. 4: Player ratification of the new CBA is expected by this date.

— Compiled by Daniel Kaplan