Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal Grants Full Stay of NFL Lockout

While the NFL and NFLPA were to resume mediation today the bigger news came from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals which has granted the owners’ request for a stay which keeps the lockout in effect. The three judge panel ruled in favor of the owners by a 2-1 vote. From the majority decision:

The public interest surely favors some resolution between the parties that will permit professional football to be played in 2011, but in this legal context, we see no reason to differentiate between the public interest and the proper application of the federal law regarding injunctions. In sum, we think the League has met its burden to demonstrate that it likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay, and the balance of the equities does not favor the Players so decidedly that it should outweigh our present view about likelihood of success on the merits.

The lone judge ruling for the players wrote the following:

The NFL’s failure to make the necessary showing on the merits detracts from the NFL’s argument that the public interest favors the application of labor laws in the current context. At best, when considering the public interest in having a 2011 NFL season and, by extension, continuing with normal operations necessary for that objective, the public interest factor is a wash. Taken in conjunction with the balance of harms, which clearly favors the Players during the pendency of the expedited appeal, I would deny the NFL’s motion for a stay.

(full court opinion can be found here)

This decision obviously shifts the dispute heavily in the owners’ favor. NFL Network reporter Albert Breer, who has been a great twitter follow through this mess, quickly reacted to the ruling:

Looks like ruling is a serious blow to the players, w/judges agreeing w/owners on Norris-Laguardia. A loss on appeal = devastating for PA.

A subsequent tweet sought a silver lining:

Hope for NFL fans: League proposal that judge ordered sparks serious movement. We’ll see. Ball in NFL’s court. Leverage is theirs for now.

A win in the courtroom doens’t necessarily remove all motivation for the owners to engage the players in negotiation. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen explains on twitter:

Owners still need a collective bargaining agreement to re-gain anti-trust exemption. Incentive for both sides is there.

Remember, all today’s ruling did is keep the lockout in place until the full appeal is heard early next month, a point the NFLPA points out in their official statement:

The NFL’s request for a stay of the lockout that was granted today means no football. The players are in mediation and are working to try to save the 2011 season. The court will hear the full appeal on June 3.

The NFLPA will downplay the significant of the announcement. However, it could be viewed as a strong indication that the players stand to lose when the case is heard. The best case scenario remains the two sides coming to an agreement outside of the courtroom and the resumption of football activities in the near future. Whether or not that is realistic remains to be seen.

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