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Will Eighth Circuit Decision Fumble NFL Season?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on July 21, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

NFL labor talks continued this week, following a July 8 opinion from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals holding that the Norris-LaGuardia Act prevents courts from blocking lockouts.

The controversy started on March 11, when a collective bargaining agreement between the National Football League and a union representing professional football players expired. The League had indicated that if a new agreement was not reached before the expiration date, then it would implement a player lockout.

The players, aware of the League's strategy, opted to terminate the union's status as their collective bargaining agent as of 4:00 p.m. on March 11, just before the agreement expired.

Later that day, the players filed an action in the district court alleging that the League’s planned lockout would constitute a group boycott and price-fixing agreement that would violate the Sherman Antitrust Act.

The League proceeded with its planned lockout on March 12, 2011. The players won a preliminary injunction in the district court, arguing that the lockout was an unlawful group boycott that was causing irreparable harm to the players. The League appealed, and the Eighth Circuit ruled 2-1 to overturn an April 25 preliminary injunction granted by a federal judge in Minnesota ordering the NFL to end the lockout.

Negotiations between the players and the League following the July 8 decision are reportedly progressing. Topics have included economic issues, player health and safety matters, and rookie salaries and contract terms, according to the Associated Press.

The Eighth Circuit decision could mean that the lockout will last into 2012, which is probably the earliest date a trial on the merits could be heard. With the exhibitions games beginning on August 7, and the season scheduled to kickoff on September 8, with the New Orleans Saints at Green Bay, players will have to scramble to negotiate a deal, or risk being out for the 2011 season.

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