Less than two months after their last victory in court, the NFL players won another legal victory Monday when U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson, siding with the players, ordered an immediate end to the lockout. Some players are expected to report to work at the various NFL camps around the league as early as today (April 26).
Back on March 1, U.S. District Judge David Doty sided with the players by issuing a ruling that in effect would prevent the NFL owners from accessing a “war chest” of TV broadcast revenue to fund their lockout. In that case, the NFLPA had contended that the TV funds had been unfairly and illegally secured.
The Doty and Nelson rulings add to an impressive track record for the NFLPA vs. the NFL owners over the past 20 years. Nearly every significant legal ruling has gone the players way over the past two decades.
While the owners quickly appealed Nelson’s ruling with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis, the players have nonetheless secured a major victory in the court of public opinion in the current NFL labor dispute.
Moreover, Nelson, in her ruling, addressed the interests of the fans –often the forgotten stakehoder in this dispute.
[T]he public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales,” wrote Nelson. “And, of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football — who have a strong investment in the 2011 season — is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation.”
For more on Nelson’s ruling and its potential ramifications: Judge ends lockout; owners file appeal
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Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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