NFL Players Still Locked Out

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The NFL owners and players were back in court on June 3 to try and make some headway in the three-month-old lockout. Lawyers for both sides were given 30 minutes to state each side’s case in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. The basic argument was whether or not the league-imposed lockout that began in March is legal.

Back on April 25, Minnesota U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson ruled the lockout illegal and said the players were subject to irreparable harm as a result of it. However, the appeals court has twice ruled in favour of the NFL owners since then, which means the lockout will carry on during the during the appeals process.

Lawyer Ted Olson, who represents the players, said things might change after the court reads all of the briefs and listens to oral arguments concerning the case. He feels they’re pretty persuasive and the court could eventually side with the players and Judge Nelson. Olson also blamed the NFL for the situation by saying the league cancelled the collective-bargaining agreement and locked the players out. He added that the players didn’t do it, the league did.

Paul Clement, lawyer for the NFL, said the court doesn’t have the jurisdiction to call an end to the lockout. He said lockouts are actually pretty common during labor disputes and they’re also legal. He also pointed to the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which says federal district courts aren’t allowed to issue an injunction when it comes to labor disputes.

Olson argued that the players dissolved the NFL Players Association following talks on March 11 and the collective bargaining relationship was ended, which means the situation should be considered an anti-trust issue, not a labor dispute.

Clement said the quickest way to come to an agreement is to simply get back to the negotiating table as soon as possible and to forget about anti-trust laws. He said both parties have to be interested in getting a deal done as a labor settlement and not an anti-trust settlement.

Judge Kermit Bye asked Clement if he thought the NFL players were suffering irreparable harm and Clement answered, “No.”  Clement then added that he’s heard a lot of players are happy with the current situation since it allows them to spend more time with their families.

Judge Bye also asked if the players were suffering financially and Clement said any financial damage can’t be classified as irreparable.  He said losing out on money may put pressure on the players to come to an agreement and that’s what a lockout is designed to do.

The owners and players association got together without their lawyers before the court hearing, but neither side would say what was discussed in the meetings. Judge Bye said it was a complex case and a decision will come in due course. He added that the courts wouldn’t have a problem if the players and league settled the issue themselves, and said, “But that’s up to you.”