Judge ruling on lockout coming on Monday?

Federal mediator George Cohen reads an announcement that the talks between the NFL Players Association and the NFL owners will continue to reach a deal and avoid a lockout in Washington, March 4, 2011. The NFL and the players’ union agreed to extend talks on a new collective agreement for another week, the League-owned NFL Network reported Friday. The chief sticking point in the talks is how to distribute the league’s $9 billion in annual revenues. REUTERS/Jim Young (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL BUSINESS)

Gary Myers of the New York Daily News hears that Judge Susan Nelson will rule on the validity of the owners’ lockout on Monday.

I’m hearing Nelson will issue the ruling on Monday. The players are the heavy favorites to win this round.

That doesn’t mean the lockout ends right away and free agency starts. Nelson will either issue a stay on her ruling pending appeal to the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis or the loser will get a stay pending appeal directly from the Eighth Circuit. The winner of the appeal gains the leverage.

Either way, the stubbornness of the players and owners will eventually burn one of them with litigation taking over for negotiation. After two years of negotiating on their own, 16 days in federal mediation with George Cohen in Washington and four days in court-ordered mediation, which ended yesterday, with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan in Minneapolis, it’s all about the lawsuits.

As Myers points out, mediation between the two sides has been put off until May 16 because Boylan has scheduling conflicts. It’s nice to know that Judge Nelson picked someone to mediate this dispute that would eventually need a nearly month-long break in between. No wonder the NFL wanted to continue mediation under George Cohen (pictured above).

A lockout injunction is likely, but don’t assume that the NFL’s doors will be open for business following Judge Nelson’s ruling. The owners are expected to appeal the decision, which means free agency, trades and fun will once again be put on hold for more lawsuits, bickering and nausea.

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