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NFL Owners Win Legal Round As Appellate Court Grants Stay For Lockout

Publication Date: 
May 16, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Sam Farmer

Professor William Gould spoke with Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times on why a decision by the U.S. 8th Circuit of Appeals to grant the NFL's motion for a stay doesn't bode well for the players going forward.

NFL owners have picked up a significant court victory, and an even bigger one could be on the way.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 vote Monday, granted the NFL's motion for a stay, allowing the league to keep the player lockout in place at least until June 3. That's when the court will hear the NFL's appeal of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order to restart football operations.

The appellate court, in a 24-page opinion, wrote: "In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin the League's lockout, and accordingly conclude that the League has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits."


"It does indicate for the football players that they're unlikely to prevail on the merits in the 8th Circuit," said Stanford law professor William B. Gould IV, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board.

Despite a string of legal victories by the players — including one in the so-called lockout-insurance case that bars owners from using money broadcasters have promised to pay in the event of game cancellations — Gould said the specter of a loss in the 8th Circuit could wind up forcing the players back to the bargaining table.

"This will induce I'm sure, at a minimum, some soul searching on the players' side," he said. "There will be, I think, a lot of voices calling for a retreat."

Gould added that a potential setback for NFL players at the 8th Circuit could have a chilling effect on NBA players considering the same decertification strategy in their brewing labor fight.

"The basketball players have to be looking at this and saying, 'Is this an avenue that we should pursue?' " he said.


It is possible but unlikely that the sides will reach an agreement before the hearing in the 8th Circuit. Gould said among the things that surprised him about that court's opinion was how it was "almost cavalier" in dismissing the players' argument they would be irreparably harmed by a lockout.


Gould, who believes Bye is "right on the money" in his dissent, said Colloton and Benton "without really articulating what the harm is that the NFL suffers, maintain that the NFL is suffering irreparable harm. So the prospects are not good for the players."