NFL Lockout and the Law

On the night of Thursday, September 8th, the 2011-2012 NFL season kicked off when the reigning Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers hosted the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field.  However, it was not too long ago that many of us doubted whether this season would start on time, if at all.  The issues involved in the lockout that threatened to derail our fall Sunday traditions remind us how the law intersects with nearly every aspect of our lives, even our diversions.

For those of you who have not spent the last several months closely following every development of the lockout, the following is a brief summary.

After the close of the 2010-2011 season, the final season included in the previous collective bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association, things looked rather bleak for football fans.  When the CBA expired in early March, the NFLPA was decertified.  On March 11, the players filed a class action antitrust lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota.  The players listed as plaintiffs are some of the biggest names in the NFL, and include Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Osi Unemyiora, Mike Vrabel, Brian Robison, Von Miller, Logan Mankins, Ben Leber, and Vincent Jackson.  The day after the suit was filed, the league imposed a lockout of the players.

One of the first orders of business for the players was to request an injunction against the lockout.  A hearing regarding the players’ request for an injunction was held in April before District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson.  Judge Nelson declared the lockout was improper, and the owners immediately appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.  The Circuit Court granted the NFL’s motion for a stay of Judge Nelson’s order pending appeal, and later, in a 54-page opinion, reversed Judge Nelson’s ruling.  (See opinion here: http://www.ca8.uscourts.gov/opndir/11/07/111898P.pdf )

In the meantime, settlement negotiations took place between the sides outside of the courtroom.  The 136-day ordeal finally came to an end when the players and owners agreed to terms for a settlement in July.  Upon agreement by all parties, Judge Nelson ordered Brady v. NFL dismissed, stating that the parties had “at all times acted with the utmost integrity and in the best interests of football.”

While the veracity of Judge Nelson’s statement is debatable, we can all agree that the end of the lockout is good for fans everywhere.  Now, our minds are free to ponder other things.  Like, why would Aaron Rodgers shave his magnificent preseason mustache?  Just how bad will the Colts be without Peyton Manning?  Did Tom Brady really agree to be the new face of Uggs?  Can the Falcons rebound after that painful Week 1 loss?

So enjoy this football-season-that-almost-wasn’t, and go Bills!!

By Kristin Poland

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