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In Wake Of Ruling, Possibility Of Progress In N.F.L. Lockout

Publication Date: 
May 17, 2011
The New York Times
Judy Battista

Professor William Gould spoke with The New York Times' Judy Battista on the likelihood that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit will change it's decision following oral arguments in June.

N.F.L. players and owners ended a brief round of negotiations Tuesday against a landscape dramatically altered by an appeals court decision that allowed the league to continue a shutdown that threatens the start of the regular season.

On Monday night, a 2-1 decision by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis gave the N.F.L. a delay of an injunction that would have ended the lockout, which will keep the league closed through the owners’ appeal of that ruling.

But there are some indications progress could be made even before the appeal is decided. Oral arguments in the appeal are scheduled for June 3.


The language of Monday’s decision was so definitive that William Gould, the former head of the National Labor Relations Board who is now a professor at Stanford Law School, said the oral arguments in the N.F.L.’s appeal amount to “going through the motions” because the judges are unlikely to change their minds.

“This has to give basketball players real pause,” Gould said. “It shifts the balance of power that was already shifting — David Stern was very successful in his previous lockouts — in favor of owners."


For N.F.L. players, the impact is only slightly clearer. Gould predicted there would be calls for retreat by some players, but while the decision gave leverage to the league’s side, a resolution still seems far off even after the push from the mediator.


Whichever side loses the appeal before the Eighth Circuit could ask for it to be heard by the entire 11-judge panel. Gould said he doubted that would do players much good, because the Eighth Circuit is heavy with Republican appointees and is considered the most business-friendly circuit in the country.

And Gould and others wonder if the Supreme Court would even take a case such as this one. If the summer drags on with no progress, more players and agents are likely to worry about the loss of paychecks.