FLORHAM PARK, NJ — On Monday, April 25, 2011, Judge Susan Nelson ruled in the favor of the NFL’s Player Union and ordered the owners to lift the lockout; thus beginning the league year 43 days late. However as players pulled up to their respected team’s facilities on Tuesday and get back to playing the game they love, they were met with the same locked doors that kept them out for the 43 prior days.
So what gives, Judge? I thought the lockout was lifted? How can the owners just blatantly ignore a U.S. court ruling? While, yes, Judge Nelson did rule in favor of the player’s union and ordered the lockout to be “lifted”, there are compounding dominoes that have fallen since the ruling was settled on.
The lawyers for the player’s union believe that football should be back in business immediately: which means signed players, like the Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Mike DeVito, could return to voluntary workouts to get contract bonuses and free agents like Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes can begin testing the market. However for two straight days players around the league, and in particular Ferguson and DeVito, were denied access to their team’s facilities. Ferguson is owed a league-high $750,000 bonus for attending team workouts while DeVito is owed $350,000, respectively.
“I expect some clarity soon from Judge Nelson on when or whether the new League Season will begin,” Ferguson’s agent, Brad Blank, told the Daily News on Tuesday. “Until then, she has enjoined the lockout, plain and simple….and that means D’Brickashaw will abide by his contractual obligation to work out. In the meantime, if the Jets do not allow him to workout, I believe they are in contempt of Judge Nelson’s directive.”
The owners requested a stay from Judge Nelson to reinstate the lockout, which was denied Wednesday, which would have given the owners more time to get details on how to comply with the judge’s rulings. It is suggested by legal experts that the owners will file an appeal of the ruling to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. The NFL asked for guidance from the court about the scale of what teams are required to do to comply. Do doors have to open for players to work out? Or do signings have to be allowed before the N.F.L. has a chance to exhaust all possibilities for a stay?
James Quinn, a lawyer for Weil, Gotshal & Manges who argued the players’ case for the injunction doesn’t understand where this confusion is coming from. “What exactly is the mystery? She has enjoined the lockout. They should start the league year. If there is no stay in place, they should be starting the league year. To file for a stay is not equivalent to getting a stay.”
And the NFL was not granted a stay. In a note to the league following her denial of the owner’s request to freeze the lockout Nelson said that “the world of ‘chaos’ the NFL claims it has been thrust into — essentially the ‘free-market’ system this nation otherwise willfully operates under — is not compelled by this court’s order.”
The ‘chaos’ that the NFL and Nelson are referring to the notion that an immediate lift of the lockout would result in a free agency free-for-all that could create a mess that would be difficult to und0 should a new collective bargaining agreement lead to different rules.
“The league may choose to act in accordance with its expressed belief that the players remain a union and that they have reached a state of impasse, or the League may choose to chart a different course, implementing a version of the 2010 player system, or something different altogether,” Nelson wrote in her letter. “Like any defendant in any lawsuit, defendants themselves must make a decision about how to proceed and accept the consequences of their decision.”
So essentially, the NFL is back in business…just without any rules.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier Wednesday that [the current situation] is one of the things I don’t think is healthy for the players, the clubs and most importantly our fans.” But also did stress the importance of removing any doubt from supporters and fans alike.
Both sides will again meet for mediation on May 16 in attempt to draw a conclusion to this on-going saga. The union and owners have already met 16 times with a mediator and four more through a federal magistrate. This is something that Goodell believes will work best for both sides.
“That’s how we’ve been successful. That’s how other leagues have been successful, and it should continue that way,” Goodell said.
So to clarify a story that was supposed to offer some clarity to an equally confusing situation: Someone better call Leonardo DiCaprio because, folks, we are still hanging in limbo (been waiting to write that all day).
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