Legal Game Kickoffs … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs

Judge Susan Richard Nelson becomes the most important woman person in the world of professional football Wednesday morning as she steps between the NFL and its players in a preliminary injunction hearing.

It goes down in Judge Nelson’s seventh-floor court room at the Warren Burger Federal Building and Courthouse in St. Paul. She will guide what figures to be the first of many, many legal proceedings involving the league’s labor situation.

There are a lot of different agendas being played out in this battle over the $9 billion-plus that the NFL generates in revenue each season. The owners prepped for the end of the collective bargaining agreement by preparing over the last two years for a lockout. The players countermove was to decertify their union, thus pushing the individual players back into the forefront with an anti-trust suit against the league.

Luckily they are holding these proceedings in the north woods, because there will be entire forests that will be churned into paper to handle all the legal back and forth that start with Wednesdays proceedings. We are going to do our best to listen to the advice of football coaches, and that’s to play this thing out one-play at a time.

So our focus right now is going to stay on what happens Wednesday.

Judge Nelson (left) will listen to arguments from the league and the former NFL Players Association, and assorted other lawyer teams that will be part of the proceedings. The players will begin their arguments that the league is violating anti-trust laws. The owners will counter that the players and their former union are violating current labor laws.

The Judge can agree with one side or the other, or she can also cut the baby in half so to speak and create a compromise. Judge Nelson could come down with one of as many of five different rulings:

  • She will grant the players the injunction they seek and unlock the lockout.
  • The ruling will go in favor of the owners and the lockout would continue.
  • The hearing could be delayed until sometime in the future.
  • She can order the two sides to go back to the federal mediation sessions they ended more than a month ago.
  • Finally, she could decide to step out of the way and allow the National Labor Relations Board to take over the matter, because it involves labor negotiations. The owners are pushing for this angle.

No matter her ruling, the losing side figures to appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

The legal ground that will be plowed is earth that’s been turned over before in these very same Minnesota courtrooms. The arguments on both sides – owners and players – were made back in proceedings that came after the 1987 players strike and the NFLPA’s decertification at that point.

It took five years, but eventually the league and players came to a labor agreement that brought real free agency to pro football, with a salary cap. It’s the system that worked just fine until 2006 when an extension was negotiated that the owners afterwards felt gave too much to the players.

There will be legion of lawyers crowding Judge Nelson’s courtroom. She will make a decision of some sort, and all those legal beagles will parse every word of the arguments, testimony and the judge’s commentary. That will send them scrambling to prepare for the next step, and there will be a next step, and one after that.

What will go down with Judge Nelson on Wednesday is a very important moment in the little and big pictures of the NFL and what’s ahead in 2011. Don’t expect an immediate ruling. That could come in a few days, a week, maybe a month. The scouting report on Judge Nelson is that she understands the whole picture and will expedite her ruling.

This is the kickoff and there is so much of the legal game that must be played. But, it’s always good to get off to a quick start. That’s what the league and the players are pushing for in front of Judge Nelson.

3 Responses to “Legal Game Kickoffs … Wednesday Cup O’Chiefs”

  • April 6, 2011  - RW says:

    Me playing the judge:

    “Okay players/owners, here’s the deal and it is non-negotiable.

    Owners, pony up and set aside more money, 5% of the total revenue pie, for injured and retired players. Up the minimum wage scale to $500K/yr and forget about 18 game regular season schedules.

    Players, accept a realistic rookie wage scale and a guaranteed 45% of the revenue pie. Stop your inane whining about wanting to see the owner’s books because unless you’re a CPA or even if you ARE, you most likely wouldn’t understand what you’re looking at or for in the first place.

    Commissioner, adjust your annual salary so that half of it is paid by the owners, the other half by the player’s association or union which will find your rulings and positions more balanced in the future.

    Lawyers, shut up and let everyone go back to work.

    Next case.”

  • April 6, 2011  - Jimbo says:

    RW, Good Job. Sounds like a plausible solution to me.

  • April 10, 2011  - el cid says:

    Got to like it, makes too much sense for those involved.

Get the Flash Player to see the slideshow.


Other News