NFL lockout lifted, owners’ stay denied … what it all likely means for the NFL season

Lockout … injunction … stay… What does it all mean and why the hell is football being played in the courts and not on the football fields and tables of Morton’s Steakhouse?

I am not claiming to be a legal expert by any means, but I have a decent knowledge of the legal field and proceedings due to my time that I am spending in law school.  I am going to try to put this all in lay person terms.

Lets start at the top.

The judge ruled that the owners were not allowed to lockout the players.  To stop the lockout, the judge issued an Injunction (an injunction is a judicial order that stops the owners from locking out the NFL players and basically tells the owners to proceed as the season was in 2010).

Now after the owners lost this court hearing, they asked for a stay of the judgment.  A stay says, basically: “We understand your ruling against us court but we plan on appealing this ruling so we ask that you suspend your ruling until we get a chance to let the higher court hear this case.”

Now today we heard that the judge has denied the stay and has put the injunction into effect. Now there are a few things that are going to happen.

  1. The owners are going to continue to appeal to the higher court
  2. The players are going to request that the owners post an appeal bond
  3. The owners are going to test the court’s power

The players will ask the court to make the owners post money so the players can recoup damages if the owners violate the injunction.  The number I heard thrown around was one billion dollars. The owners would need to put up one billion in cash or assets to cover the appeal bond.

Now if the owners continue the lockout, preventing players from working out, not researching free agents, and not signing athletes, the players will be able to bring them before the court and ask the court to hold them in contempt.  If the court finds them in contempt, violation of the court orders, the court can award money to the players.

On appeal, the standard of review that the court will apply is extremely deferential, this means that the higher court needs to find that the judge abused her discretion in making a ruling. Thisis an extremely high burden to meet and Judge Nelson has taken a week to write and prepare her ruling so that the higher court won’t overrule her.

So pretty much what is going to happen: The NFL should continue as it would have this time last year.   While this is going on, the owners will appeal the ruling.  The owners will likely test the courts power and hope they win the appeal.

My opinion, the owners will not win the appeal and then the NFL free agency will start sometime shortly after the NFL Draft is completed. I think it is likely that it will take one team to break the ice and sign someone then the other teams will follow suit.  This disallowing of the stay was a big win for the players and all of the dominos could fall shortly.

What is your opinion on the situation? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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