When the CBA extension ran out Friday night, the NFL and the group formerly known as the NFLPA had still failed to reach an agreement and both sides responded with the drastic measures football fans had feared. With the decertification of the players union, the owners proceeded with a lockout which could translate to serious delays for the 2011 season, if not its complete demise. As the union has been disbanded, any and all hopes for collective bargaining have dissipated and it is now entirely up to the courts to determine the fate of American football.
According to The Huddle, USA Today’s interactive football news source, the first hearing of Tom Brady et al. v. National Football League is set for April 6th before Judge Susan Richard Nelson of the District of Minnesota. Members of the former NFLPA have filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in hopes that they can salvage the upcoming season. For the motion to be granted, the players must outline why the action taken by the NFL is damaging to them, express reasons for which they believe they would ultimately be successful if the case were to go to trial and what their desired outcome is, among various other details (See Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Title VIII, Rule 65). If the court agrees with the player’s motion and grants injunctive relief the lockout would cease, although the case would be far from closed. With or without a lockout, the players have filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL asserting that their actions effectively limit commerce. While the players hope decertification has made their filing legitimate, there is still a chance that the NFL could be protected by prior immunity.
As we mentioned last week, the case of American Needle v. NFL did not fully strike the NFL from immunity to anti-trust lawsuits, leaving interpretation open in the future. In spite of the courts’ powers of interpretation, the U.S. Congress can’t help but get involved when it comes to defending their country’s sport. H.R. 1060, featured on OpenCongress.org, was introduced just yesterday in hopes of amending the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961 to further restrict any attempts by the NFL to claim exemption. With the case currently sitting before a judge that has never heard any NFL cases previously, both sides are left uneasy about the turnout.