NFL Lockout Overruled, League Officials To Appeal

Apr 26, 2011, 16:21 by John Steele

Seven weeks into an NFL lockout, a U.S. District judge has sided with the players in a dispute to divide the $9 billion business. It is unclear if players can return to team facilities and begin off-season training as league appeals are still pending.

According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered an immediate end to the lockout Monday, saying that the NFL Players Association's decision to "de-unionize" was legitimate because it has "serious consequences" for the players.

In her ruling, Nelson cited the players' short careers, arguing that monetary damages wouldn't be enough relief.

Almost immediately following the decision, the NFL filed a notice of appeal questioning whether Nelson exceeded her jurisdiction, seeking relief from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. Hours later, the league filed a motion for an expedited stay, meaning it wants Nelson to freeze her ruling to let the appeals process play out.

Jim Quinn, an attorney for the players, said the pressure is on the league.

"They better act quickly, because as of right now there's no stay and, presumably, players could sign with teams," Quinn said. "There are no guidelines as of right now, so they have to put something in place quickly."

In a statement, the NFL again argued its belief that "federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes" and expressed confidence the appeals court would agree.

"But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal," the NFL said.