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NFL Lockout Lifted: NFL Responds, Intends To Appeal Nelson Ruling

The NFL has released an official statement on the ruling to lift the lockout made by Judge Susan Nelson today. Not surprisingly, they disagree with her decision and plan to appeal.

We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal.

The core of the NFL’s argument in the case was that the court didn’t have jurisdiction in this particular matter and should have referred the case to the National Labor Relations board. Judge Nelson clearly disagreed in her decision.

“The minimal, if any, benefit that might be derived from seeking the NLRB’s expertise here is clearly outweighed by the delay involved, particularly where the players are incurring ongoing irreparable harm.”

She also said that she expects that the NLRB would have ruled against them anyway.

“Employees have the right not only to organize as a union but also to refrain from such representation and, as relevant here, to “de-unionize.”

Although the NFL has filed a charge here, the NLRB has yet to issue any complaint and, in this Court’s considered judgment, it is likely that the Board will dismiss the charge."

The NFL will now seek to file an appeal with the 8th circuit court, while also asking for a stay of Nelson’s ruling pending that appeal. They will argue that the court has “primary jurisdiction” which is a doctrine that allows courts to refer cases to special agencies (such as the NLRB) in cases where those agencies have greater expertise.

However, Nelson said in her decision that typically the 8th circuit does not recommend applying this doctrine.

The Eighth Circuit has repeatedly cautioned that the doctrine is to be invoked sparingly, however, as staying the case while the agency addresses or resolves the particular issue within its expertise usually entails substantial delay.

While she is of the mind that the 8th circuit would agree with her decision, this does not mean that they won’t at least hear the appeal. If they do hear the appeal, it is likely that they will quickly issue a stay on her ruling.