U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered an immediate end to the NFL lockout yesterday siding with the players over how to divide $9 billion with NFL owners.
But don’t start planning those in season road trips just yet…
The injunction put in place to end the 7-week NFL lockout will seem like nothing more than an open house for players in the first few days.Players under contract will be allowed to enter team facilities, seek medical treatment and even watch game film, they will not be able to lift weights, discuss contracts or have any photo opportunities with the media.
Judge Nelson questioned NFL Attorney David Boies repeated argument that she should not have juridiction over a labor dispute with an unfair negotiation charge against the players pending with the National Labor Relations Board, a contention that would be rejected by Judge Nelson. She recognized the players union decision to decertify as legitimate because of the “serious consequences” that it presented for the players.
Nelson referenced her colleague, U.S. District Judge David Doty, who has frequently ruled for the players in the past. Not only did she declare that players are likely to suffer harm by the lockout, a legal requirement for granting the injunction, Nelson wrote that they’re already feeling the hurt now.
The NFL is in the process of appealing the decision.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell stated in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that Judge Nelson’s decision “may significantly alter professional football as we know it. … By blessing this negotiating tactic [recognizing the players’ right to dissolve their union], the decision may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history.”
NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith remains hopeful that the decision sticks, “My hope is really is that there’s somebody on the other side who loves football as much as our players and fans do.”
If the injunction is upheld the NFL would resume business under the 2010 format meaning:
It could invoke the 2010 rules for free agency, meaning players would need six seasons of service before becoming unrestricted free agents when their contracts expire; previously, it was four years. The requirement for restricted free agents would be four years rather than the three years before 2010. There also was no salary cap in 2010, meaning teams could spend as much – or as little as they wanted.
The NFL would determine if and when offseason workouts would resume while the appeal is pending.