Appeals court upholds lockout – will it halt labor progress?

Commissioner of the National Football League (NFL) Roger Goodell arrives to continue negotiations between the NFL and the National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) in Washington March 11, 2011. The parties were still negotiating a range of sticking points, including how to divide more than $9 billion in annual revenues, but the players’ union insist one issue, the NFL’s proposal to add two more games to the regular season, was off the table. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL EMPLOYMENT BUSINESS)

The Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has thrown out Judge Susan Nelson’s order lifting the NFL lockout, which essentially handed the league and owners a key victory. Will this ruling now affect the recent progress that has been made between the players and owners in terms of the labor negotiations?

This verdict was hardly surprising, although the timing certainly was. It was thought that the court was holding its opinion because negotiations toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement were progressing and the judges did not want to influence the talks. Still, it was assumed weeks ago that the appeals court would throw out Judge Nelson’s ruling, so one would think that talks will continue to progress between the two sides until a deal is in place. After all, if the owners were counting on winning this verdict then they wouldn’t be pushing hard to come to a new CBA agreement like they are now. They would have waited for the ruling before their next move.

Of course, as I’ve written for weeks now, this situation remains fluid and you never know whether or not talks will break down in an instant. But the owners would be smart to keep things moving forward. Not only would they risk a $12 billion judgment from the anti-trust suit that is still in play, but the appeals court ruling also states that rookies and free agents not under contract cannot be locked out. So while the owners could theoretically lock most of the players for an entire season, it’s obviously not in their best interest to do so. What has always been in everyone’s best interest is that a new deal be put in place and the season goes on as normal.

The first preseason game is scheduled for August 7. It’s not imperative that the preseason starts on time, but it would be nice if the players and owners could come to an agreement within these next couple of weeks so that teams can get players in camp. It would be a shame if anything derails the current progress that has been made, especially when there’s still a chance for the season to start on schedule.

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