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NFL Moves To Federal Court With Chance To Make Legal History

Publication Date: 
April 05, 2011
USA Today
Jarrett Bell

Professor William B. Gould is quoted in USA Today on the challenges facing U.S. Judge Susan Richard Nelson during the NFL lockout hearings.

Last football season, the NFL saw its teams combine for a league-record 11,283 points, triggered by quarterbacks who set a new mark with 751 touchdown passes.

With the next football season jeopardized by a labor dispute underscored by a lockout hearing Wednesday before U.S. Judge Susan Richard Nelson, the NFL is poised for a different type of history flowing from the courtroom.


"There are a lot of tough, cutting-edge legal issues in play," says Stanford law professor William Gould, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). "Judge Nelson has got quite a challenge."


"In cases of breach of contract, which this falls under," explains Gould, "the (NLRB) Board and the court have concurrent jurisdictions. The law is untidy in this area."

That's why Gould watches this case with such interest. He believes players have been "pretty cavalier" about how the NLRB could impact the dispute. But he's not sold on the NFL's argument that the NFLPA's decertification — a maneuver that allowed the antitrust lawsuit — is a sham. Language in the previous collective bargaining agreement prevents the NFL from using the sham argument.

Says Gould, "The sham issue is the Achilles heel for the owners in this case."