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NFL legal fight centers on St. Louis today

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After being sent out of the room for two days of not-so-secret mediation talks in Chicago, the lawyers are back, with a billable-hour vengeance.

Today, in St. Louis, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will take up the question of whether Judge Susan Nelson’s order lifting the lockout will be upheld or overturned.  Specifically, the three-judge panel will hear oral arguments from the lawyers.  And even though the entire process has been expedited, don’t except a Judge Wapner-style “I’ll be back in five minutes” decision.  Chances are it’ll be at least a week and as long as a month before the judges issue their ruling.

With two of the three judges leaning in the NFL’s favor and one judge apparently poised to rule for the players, there’s a belief that the final outcome will result in the lockout remaining in place.  But the questions posed by the two judges (Colloton and Benton) who are perceived to be willing to let the lockout stand could shed light on whether one of them is having serious doubts about his “serious doubts.”  If so, that could give the owners even more reason to try to work out a new labor deal before the Eighth Circuit rules.

Regardless of the outcome (assuming a settlement isn’t reached), the loser will appeal to the full Eighth Circuit court for a rehearing “en banc.”  (“Why would they do it in a bank instead of in a courtroom?”)  Then, the loser will undoubtedly file a petition with the Supreme Court, even though the Supreme Court agrees to consider only a fraction of the petitions it receives.

On that topic, players’ lead counsel for the appeal, former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, sounds like he has been drinking the Jeff Kessler litigation-over-negotiation Kool-Aid, hinting at a legal strategy that would wipe out all of the 2011 season.   “There are significant legal questions here that, if decided one way or the other, one side may not be satisfied,” Olson told Alex Marvez of FOXSports.com.  “The [Supreme] Court has frequently considered decisions involving professional sports.  It would not at all be unheard of in a case like this that it would go to the Supreme Court.”

He’s right, even though it remains a very long shot.  Either way, if the NFLPA* decides to let the process play itself out before engaging in meaningful talks with the NFL, it’ll be a clear signal that we’ll have to make chicken salad out of a substandard potpourri of college football, the CFL, and the UFL.  (But we’re ready to embrace college football, the CFL, and the UFL, if need be.)

Olson also hinted at a desire to continue to push the antitrust lawsuit regardless of the outcome in the Eighth Circuit, which also would jeopardize the season, if the strategy entails blindly pursuing victory through the courts without giving genuine consideration to negotiation.   “Whether or not the lockout is temporarily enjoined does not resolve the question of whether the lockout violates the antitrust law,” Olson told Marvez.  “That’s going to be something that plays itself out further.”

Here’s hoping that Olson was merely engaging in lawyerly bluster, and that the parties will remain committed to talking privately about solving the dispute, while the lawyers find another cow to milk at more than $1,000 an hour.

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28 Responses to “NFL legal fight centers on St. Louis today”
  1. chapnastier says: Jun 3, 2011 9:48 AM

    Blah blah blah… in other words we will know nothing today or next week or in a month. Nothing will change unless the suit is dropped and they get back to negotiating.

  2. thebigrig82 says: Jun 3, 2011 9:53 AM

    BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH…..let us know when the season starts, and if you’re lucky, we might still be interested in this moronic league!!

  3. packfannchitown says: Jun 3, 2011 9:59 AM

    You greedy bloodsuckers (on both sides) wipe out the 2011 season with this crap and you’ll have a revolt on your hands…

  4. duanethomas says: Jun 3, 2011 10:03 AM

    Two quotes that there will be a settlement :
    #1
    One high-ranking member of the former union estimated to me a new deal could be reached within two to three weeks. “This is the most optimistic I’ve been in many months,” he said.
    #2
    Owners like Jones, who have billion-dollar stadiums, can’t afford to miss games, because missed games could potentially lead to missed payments on stadium debt. Kraft and Jones in particular have been very vocal in wanting to get a deal done sooner than later.

    A deal will get done, because football players want to play and owners can not miss the revenue the game/players generate. So much for the owners “have other business’s that they make money on” LOL.

  5. eagles83 says: Jun 3, 2011 10:19 AM

    @duanethomas

    Where are you getting those quotes from?

  6. willycents says: Jun 3, 2011 10:25 AM

    “Then, the loser will undoubtedly file a petition with the Supreme Court, even though the Supreme Court agrees to consider only a fraction of the petitions it receives.”
    ——————————————————
    Not a good scenario. Using the players position, only because their attorneys are the ones quoted, I see disappointment ahead for we fans.
    If the three judges leave the lockout in place (2-3 weeks for the ruling), then an appeal to the complete 8th circuit court( one week, six months to hear it, who knows) hearings, briefs etc. A month or more for their ruling. Then the appeal to the Supreme Court, another month or so while they decide whether to hear it, then scedule it on their docket for god knows when.

    The term for SCOTUS starts in October. I would guess that the docket is pretty much set for next year. IF this case is appealed to SCOTUS, it would be a minimum of October before it is heard, then a probably a couple months before an opinion is rendered.
    Looks like the players (again only because their attorney is quoted) are willing to miss two, maybe three seasons to get this issue resolved. By then, half the named litigants are in their late thirties and retired from the league. Doesn’t look like even a win for them is a win, since the average NFL career is supposedly 3.5 -4 years.

  7. Rhode Island Patriots Fan says: Jun 3, 2011 10:25 AM

    I think all three Circuit Judges are thoroughly familiar with the legal questions presented here. My guess is an opinion will be issued in three weeks or less. I’ve seen predictions of four to six weeks, but I don’t think that’s likely. The case law established here will be important, as it will inform the question of how some future litigation is resolved not only in the NFL, but other major sports leagues as well. The Eighth Circuit has an opportunity here to level the playing field between the owners and players by affirming that Judge Nelson did not have jurisdiction to grant injunctive relief.

  8. duanethomas says: Jun 3, 2011 10:25 AM

    @eagles83

    http://www.cbssports.com/#!/nfl/story/15192190/miles-left-to-travel-but-real-progress-made-in-nfl-talks

    Dont let this be your only source for NFL news, this site is filled with team employees and NFL shills. PFT is as balanced as they can be, but no way any site can cover every angle of this story.

  9. point947 says: Jun 3, 2011 10:26 AM

    The players will cave before the ENTIRE 2011 season is lost.

    You are crazy if you think these guys can afford to not receive an a season’s worth of game checks.

    I also would not rule out the Federal Govt. getting involved based on the negative economic/unemployment impact a lost season would have on 31 major metro metro areas around the country.

  10. duanethomas says: Jun 3, 2011 10:37 AM

    @willycents: School is in, so PAY ATTENTION. I get so tired of that “the average NFL career is 3.5 years…..

    Commissioner Roger Goodell clarified a myth about the average career length of an NFL player during a recent conference call with season ticket holders of the San Diego Chargers.

    One fan on the conference call said she has read many times that the average career length of an NFL player is about three years, adding it seemed so many played much longer than that. She asked Commissioner Goodell about his knowledge of NFL career length.

    “There is a little bit of a misrepresentation or a misunderstanding on that. Frequently, it is said that the average career is about 3.5 years. In fact, if a player makes an opening day roster, his career is very close to six years,” Commissioner Goodell said. “If you are a first-round draft choice, the average career is close to nine years. That 3.5-year average is really a misrepresentation. What it adds is a lot of players who don’t make an NFL roster and it brings down the average.”

    According to a recent NFL Management Council analysis of players who entered the NFL between 1993 and 2002, the average career length for a player who is on his club’s opening-day roster as a rookie is 6.0 years.

  11. ravenspit says: Jun 3, 2011 10:43 AM

    Hey Duane, you try to sound so smart while being a player’s shill (a term you like to use to sound smart), but aren’t you the guy who a week or so ago said that Ford went to Washington for a bailout-while they were the only ones NOT taking a bailout?

  12. willycents says: Jun 3, 2011 10:43 AM

    @ duane
    good advice, peruse many different sources to gather information so you can make an informed judgement and not an emotionally based one.
    Every source, by necessity, produces information that matches their outlook, both personally and professionally, and suppresses information that does not match their outlook.

  13. willycents says: Jun 3, 2011 10:47 AM

    @ point947

    I hope that the Federal Govt does not get involved any more than they are through the courts. If the politicians, congress and the president, get involved, the mess that exists right now will be nothing compared to the cluster **** that will exist by the time they “fix” it.

  14. steveej says: Jun 3, 2011 10:47 AM

    This is the stupidest situation I believe I have ever seen. Management loses revenue, which they need to make payroll, players lose paychecks and also put themselves at risk of injury (even more than usual) due to lack of structured workouts and add this to a lack of memory on how the Fans walked away and how much work it took to gain them back and all I can say is WOW. Morons on both sides! Talking about cutting off the nose! Do they really want to rick an entire sport for a silly line drawn in the sand by a bunch of lawyers that don’t give a crap about football? Get some gray matter going on here.. This is REALLY STUPID on all sides. The really sad thing is all of the attached businesses that will be gone before the league and players start to suffer! I could imagine this maybe happening during a good economy but now, when jobs are going out the window everywhere, makes no sense at all. The players and owners deserve nothing short of a complete fan desertion. The collateral businesses and employees do not.

  15. 2011to2020lions says: Jun 3, 2011 10:47 AM

    If they end up scratching this season, I will scrap them for the next five years.

  16. mick730 says: Jun 3, 2011 10:56 AM

    Duane is undoubtedly an employee of some union someplace; either SEIU, AFL-CIO, or maybe even a public school teacher who has been placed in a “rubber room” for failing at his profession, but still paid at the insistence of his union. That would explain how he spends 24/7 on this website being both schrill and a shill.

    Unions. Screwing the many for the benefit of the few.

  17. duanethomas says: Jun 3, 2011 10:58 AM

    ravenspit says:
    Jun 3, 2011 10:43 AM
    Hey Duane, you try to sound so smart while being a player’s shill (a term you like to use to sound smart), but aren’t you the guy who a week or so ago said that Ford went to Washington for a bailout-while they were the only ones NOT taking a bailout?

    Yes. my mistake was saying they took bailout money and I was wrong……but they did go to Washington and ask for money for the auto industry. Interconnectness of the BIG 3 and the suppliers and if one failed all would fail or something like that. I know you’re not a pro-owner shill, you live in “B-more” and hang with Fat Curt, Bunchie and the boys on The Corner….Gotta go folks, have a meeting to attend. Stick to facts people.

  18. willycents says: Jun 3, 2011 11:02 AM

    @ duane
    I will use Mr Goodell’s numbers instead of DeSmith’s figures then.
    Looks like the players (again only because their attorney is quoted) are willing to miss two, maybe three seasons to get this issue resolved. By then, half the named litigants are in their late thirties and retired from the league. Doesn’t look like even a win for them is a win, since the average NFL career is supposedly SIX (6) years.

    There, fixed it for you. Did that change anything in the statement about the age of the litigants? All that changed was that the average player would lose 1/2 to 1/3 of their career instead of 1/2 to 2/3 of their career. Still a heck of a sacrifice for them to willingly make, esp since this fight is mostly over the money paid to current employees. (probably a 5 year cba in the end)

  19. southmo says: Jun 3, 2011 11:03 AM

    Or duanethomas might simply be THE Duane Thomas. That would explain a lot, too.

    I think any NFL fan, who has really enjoyed the last 12 years of the NFL, and who is following this closely without an ideological bent, would be leaning owners at this point.

    I absolutely can see the players point of view on many things, but since they have been unwilling to compromise even slightest… I have no sympathy for them at the moment.

  20. hendawg21 says: Jun 3, 2011 11:03 AM

    You know sometimes the appeals system really sucks in this country…which explains why there are still so many truly guilty folks sitting on death row…

    I mean come on geez can’t they just make a decision and live with it…

  21. pastorini'sflak says: Jun 3, 2011 11:18 AM

    The gateway to the west is now the gateway to the best…lockout hearing in the country.

  22. johnnyoclock says: Jun 3, 2011 11:33 AM

    More evidence there won’t be a season. The players will in fact drag this into the season by using the courts to stall.

    They apparently believe the stupid rich greedy providers of their living are drunk off their own fatcat money and have no heart, and will cave once the stadiums are empty on week 1.

    Dumb strategy, but it looks like that’s what they’re doing.

    As far as the player’s side caving because some guys will go bankrupt, think again. One mantra of the whole social warrior garbage is, “there are always necessary casualties in any social movement”.

    You really think Smith cares at all about the group of players on the bottom third of the pole who won’t be able to handle this and will be hurt? No. Why? Because he apparently sees rather than doing a fair and honest deal some greater goal of sticking it to the owners deep as he can because that’s justice in thie world; and if there need be casualties of his own then so be it.

    Open your eyes people.

  23. bobwhitequail says: Jun 3, 2011 11:37 AM

    Olson also hinted at a desire to continue to push the antitrust lawsuit regardless of the outcome in the Eighth Circuit,…“Whether or not the lockout is temporarily enjoined does not resolve the question of whether the lockout violates the antitrust law,” Olson told Marvez. “That’s going to be something that plays itself out further.”

    This is consistent with everything that has gone on before. They will keep suiing, suing, suing, until there is nothing else they can sue about. Unfortunately in this country you can sue anyone for anything, so they could tie up the NFL for a very long time. HOw does this help the players? It doesn’t. It does help attorneys such as Kessler and Olsen however. Kessler in particular is raking in millions so why would he stop suing and actually negotiate?

  24. bonniebengal says: Jun 3, 2011 12:22 PM

    TO the owners and players: Quit the crap and give us our football, you bastards!

  25. bigredtuna says: Jun 3, 2011 1:01 PM

    I admit it: they’ve got me. We miss a season, I’ll be back. We miss September, I’ll be there in October – but I will be pissed.

    Here are two groups of people who make more than I ever will, and they are just trying to figure out how to screw each other.

    Goodell is the commissioner, and should be here for the good of the game. He shouldn’t be a shill for the owners, as he is.

    Goodell should get the owners and De Smith together and lean on them to come up with something they can live with (which will be less than they want). Everybody is ripping Tagliabue for what the owners think is a bad deal. At least he got the owners to move significantly.

    If any games are missed, something needs to be done to make sure that cannot happen again – and I mean Congress.

  26. mick730 says: Jun 3, 2011 1:35 PM

    “If any games are missed, something needs to be done to make sure that cannot happen again – and I mean Congress.”

    Well, I guess there’s possibilities on the plus and the minus for that one. On the one hand, you could say that by having the 435 idiots in Congress spend their time on the NFL could prohibit them from further screwing up our economy, not that they haven’t done a bang up job on that already, but on the other, having Congress “fix” the NFL could give us a NFL as disfunctional as the Postal Service, Amtrak, Public Education, or Public Health.

    I’m not sure which would be the worse scenario.

  27. vetdana says: Jun 3, 2011 2:13 PM

    So far we have not seen Govt. interference in this labor dispute[ and we dont want it]…. but…..If the season goes, tens of thousands of people will be affected, both within the clubs and , the businesses that rely primarily on the NFL for their incomes. If these people are layed off, millions of dollars of unemployment and re-training funds would have to be payed by Federal and State Govt. Programs. Add to this, the fact that many Stadium constructions were partially Govt. financed, and add to this, the fact that ,when it comes to Govt. intervention, ” The squeeky wheel always gets the grease “[ and many people will be complaining to their elected officials], we have all the ingriedents for, many invitations to commitee meetings [Hearings] on Capital Hill. After this….Anything is possible !! [ I have seen it happen many times before] !

  28. realfann says: Jun 3, 2011 3:47 PM

    Like every other job in the world, an NFL player career starts when the player starts work for, and starts getting paid by, the team.

    The career ends when his last team stops paying him and he stops working for them.

    3.5 years average.

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