BREAKING: Court Of Appeals Decides In Favor Of Owners

DeMaurice Smith may have to take a break from CBA negotiations to understand what may be happening to unsigned free agents and rookies. The Court has delivered a partial ruling on the lockout.

It appears that the Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals could wait no longer for the NFL and NFLPA to reach a new CBA. After hearing the arguments from both sides a little more than a month ago, the three judges urged the sides to reach an agreement before the judges were forced to intervene. While recent CBA negotiations have allowed some hope to creep into football fan's collective consciousness, it apparently hasn't moved fast enough. The judges handed down a 34-page ruling on a portion of the litigation, while leaving other major hurdles unaddressed. 

The court has ruled that the lockout can stand. In the last few pages of the decision, however, they provided a loophole that hints of the warning 'neither side will be happy with our rulings'. Rookies and free agents, players not currently under contract, were not included in who could be locked out. From ProFootballTalk.com:

But the clock finally has run out.  The Eighth Circuit has posted at its website a 34-page decision that strikes down Judge Nelson’s decision and allows the lockout to continue.

Specifically, the Eighth Circuit ruled that the Norris-LaGuardia Act prevents courts from issuing orders that end strikes or lockouts.  Judge Bye, to no surprise, disagreed with the ruling.

While it appears to be a big win for the NFL, it wasn’t unexpected.  And it’s far from the complete win the NFL wanted at this stage.  As to the critically important question of whether the nonstatutory labor exemption survives the decertification of the NFLPA, the Eighth Circuit made no ruling — which means that even though the lockout can continue, a chance remains that the lockout later will be found to be illegal, exposing the NFL to a potential verdict of $12 billion or more if the 2011 season is lost.

Mike Florio suggests that this ruling might inject a pause in the current negotiations, as both sides will need to navigate around this ruling, as demands and strategies may be tweaked.

[UPDATE}: The NFL and the NFLPA have released a joint statement.

"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."

[/UPDATE]

Follow the jump for some tweet reactions.

Another important point from 8th: "In particular, we express no view on whether the League’s nonstatutory labor exemption ..."less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

 

(8th cont): "... from the antitrust laws continues after the union’s disclaimer."less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Dominoes ... Rookies/UFAs need to be ruled on ... Nelson gets 1st crack ... Nelson likely to rule for players ... That ruling = Total chaos.less than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply

 

8th Circuit ruled NFL cannot lockout players not under contract -- i.e. rookies, free agents -- because there is no employment relationship.less than a minute ago via UberSocial for BlackBerry Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Ruling does not allow unsigned players to start signing asap -- it kicks back to Judge Nelson for a hearing, though, she'd greenlight it.less than a minute ago via UberSocial for BlackBerry Favorite Retweet Reply

 

Now this gets interesting. If Judge Susan Nelson really does greenlight unsigned players being signed, how does that shake out in the long run? Will the NFL impose rules on itself about signing players? Does the language of the contract have to include more items, that were originally handled via the CBA and the union, i.e. benefits and the like?

I'll be reading up on the court's interpretations of the Norris-LaGuardia act. Up until now, I've held a belief that the spirit of the act intending to prevent courts from always siding with big business could've prevented this take, but that appears to be incorrect.

More lockout madness. Feel free to vent or expound here. We are exactly seven days away from the supposed D-Day... stay tuned football fans.

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