NFL Lockout: Appeals Court Favors Owners

Jul 8, 2011, 10:30 by R.E. Christian

A U.S. appeals court vacated a lower court's injunction blocking professional football owners' lockout of players Friday.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Minneapolis invalidated the April 25 lower court decision that the lockout should be lifted because players suffered irreparable harm.

In a joint statement the NFL owners and the NFL Players Association said, "While we respect the court's decision, today's ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation. We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come, and allow for a full 2011 season."

The 2-1 decision said the lower court lacked jurisdiction to enter the injunction because the Norris-LaGuardia Act curtails the authority of the district court to issue injunctions in a labor dispute.

The majority opinion also raised a skeptical eyebrow about the players' union decertifying a day before the collective bargaining agreement expired March 11.

Players and owners were engaged in collective bargaining for years, the majority opinion said.

"Then, on a single day, just hours before the CBA's expiration, the union discontinued collective bargaining and disclaimed its status, and the players filed this action seeking relief concerning industry-wide terms and conditions of employment," the court wrote. "Whatever the effect of the union's disclaimer on the league's immunity from antitrust liability, the labor dispute did not suddenly disappear just because the players elected to pursue the dispute through antitrust litigation rather than collective bargaining."

The opinion didn't offer a view on whether the NFL's non-statutory labor exemption from antitrust laws continued after the union's disclaimer.

In his dissent, Judge Kermit Bye said Friday's decision "puts the power of the [Norris-LaGuardia] Act in the service of employers, to be used against non-unionized employees who can no longer avail themselves of protections of labor laws."

Source: UPI