NFL Lockout Hearing Looms

The hearing for the player’s request to lift the lockout imposed by NFL owners will start on April 6.  Judge Susan Richard Nelson will preside over the hearing in Minnesota.

Nothing that Nelson decides is irrevocable.  Every ruling she might make is subject to appeal to a higher court.  Judge Nelson could grant the player’s request and that would in effect stop the lockout at least temporarily.  However, the court cases would continue to play out.  She could also decide in favor of the owners keeping the lockout in place and moving the league ever closer to a canceled season.

If Judge Nelson makes the decision within a week to 10 days, there would be an immediate appeal filed to the Eighth Circuit Court.  Once that was resolved, even if it moved at warp speed, it would still be into June before a decision in that court would be reached.  The case would then have to go to the Supreme Court and they would most likely not hear the case until October at the soonest.  If that were to be the outcome, there would most certainly not be a 2011 NFL season.

Most experts believe that the 2011 season is not really  under threat unless this lockout goes to July, training camp time and most also think that the entire season would not be in jeopardy unless the Supreme Court and an October date would come into play.  But with each subsequent hearing and appeal, the scenario becomes more and more likely.  To win a preliminary injunction from Nelson and lift the lockout, the players must demonstrate a likelihood they will succeed in the lawsuit, which claims that their ability to ply their trade has been illegally restricted. And they must show they will suffer irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted.

The league argued in a recent court filing that federal labor law, namely the 1932 Norris-LaGuardia Act, prohibits the granting of an injunction request in a labor dispute. The NFL also contended that the players are in no danger of suffering irreparable harm without an injunction.  The players contended in their court documents that they are suffering irreparable harm because they don’t have access to a free marketplace and aren’t playing the game they love.

The first step in what could be many begins this week.  It remains to be seen just what effect it all has on the NFL 2011 season.

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