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Federal Appeals Court Gives Owners Crucial Victory, League To Remain Closed During Full Appeal Of Injunction

Say it ain’t so. NFL fans received bad news on Monday when it was revealed that a federal appeals court granted owners a full stay on an injunction that would have halted the ongoing Lockout.

What’s the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision mean? Well, quite simply, the league remains closed for business until the NFL has its appeal to the injunction issued heard in full. The appeal process will begin in earnest beginning on June 3rd in St. Louis when oral arguments are submitted. A final ruling is expected several weeks after that.

Though the decision was expected by both sides, it’s nevertheless a disheartening development for fans and for those players who are currently in limbo as free agents. For the players fortunate to be under contract, there’s still no interaction with their coaches, and any and all workouts will have to be conducted unofficially away from team headquarters.

If the owners had not been granted a full stay on the injunction, the league would have been immediately been back open for business, which in turn would have meant a system of rules would have been put in place to govern basic transactions and operations such as trades and free-agent signings. Most believed that the rules governing the league last year in 2010 would have been reinstated at least for the interim. Unfortunately, that didn’t come to fruition. Instead we resume the waiting game.

“This is the decision that, practically, means everything,” said Robert Boland, a professor of sports management at New York University and a labor and antitrust lawyer who has worked as a sports agent. “This is who has control of the game board. That’s far more important, practically, than who has the legal rights on their side. If the league is opened for business it’s very difficult for owners to push them back out. Every day they are open, the economic value and the optics says you need to stay open. This puts a lot of pressure on players. No roster bonuses will be paid. There won’t be per diems which are important to younger players. It’s the worst thing for them from a solidarity perspective.”

Mediated negotiations restarted on Monday, but in light of today’s legal news, it’s hard to believe that either side is ready to do much serious bargaining while they wait to see what transpires in a federal appeals court in St. Louis early next month.

Photographs by dizfunk used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.