The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals dropped a bombshell on the NFL-NFLPA labor negotiations this morning, as they finally issued a ruling on the NFL’s appeal that the lockout was indeed legal.
The more the courts get involved, the uglier it will get
As many expected, the courts sided with the NFL, ruling that the league had every right to lock out the player. The appeal came after the brief period a few months back when the NFL was forced to open the door to the players, even if it was only for a day.
An interesting twist in the ruling, however, could end up benefiting the players. Here is an interesting point Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk (who’s background as a lawyer no doubt is helping him through this whole process) made regarding a special section in the ruling.
“The ruling the Eighth Circuit suggests that Judge Nelson could impose an injunction as it relates to players not under contract (i.e., free agents and rookies). To do so, however, Judge Nelson must conduct a hearing at which testimony and other evidence is introduced. This could lead to a ruling that would require the NFL to negotiate with and sign free agents and rookies, despite the existence of the lockout”
Such a ruling would allow the Eagles to sign whichever players they targeted in the “aggressive plan” that GM Howie Roseman promised they had. It would also allow them to get started on signing first round pick Danny Watkins, who then may be able to get into camp on time.
This potential ruling, however, would be a major blow to the NFL. The longer the lockout goes on, the potential free agents will grow tired of not being able to cash in. Any time even a small group of people in a union are upset, it can turn the whole negotiation process. If the 8th Circuit rules that free agents and rookies could sign, it would be one less group of players upset. Granted they would not be able to actually cash the check, but they would know where their financial security was coming from, as well as where to move if needed.
The chances of it ever getting to this point are slim. By all accounts, the two sides hope to have the framework of a new CBA done by today, or into next week at the latest.
But the ruling today was a reminder to both the fans and the parties involved that if they are not able to accomplish a deal soon, this thing could get ugly. And fast.