Are you ready for the biggest event in professional football since the Super Bowl? Today, NFL owners and players, represented by a stable of lawyers only billionaires and millionaires could afford, head to court for the opening round of their antitrust case. Judge Susan Nelson, a Minnesota federal district court judge, will hear a motion filed by the players calling for a preliminary injunction that if granted, would lift the lockout: the Injunction Bowl. You know how the CBA battle arrived at this point; here's what you need to know about the injunction itself.
If and when
It is believed by most experts that Judge Nelson will grant the injunction. Nelson could reach a decision sometime within two weeks to month, give or take. That will precipitate another court battle as owners appeal to the Appeals Court for the US 8th Circuit in Denver. A decision from that court might not come until summer. So...
The season starts...
Here's the kicker. Judge Nelson could include in her injunction ruling an order for free agency, etc. to start right away, even in the face of an appeal. Players are arguing that the lockout does irreparable harm to their short careers, which could generate the inclusion of rule to get football up and running again.
People have various opinions about how the 8th Circuit might act. It's a more conservative court than others. But courts are independent bodies, above the whims of a two-year election cycle. Some court appointees by the most conservative Presidents have sided with positions few would have expected, and vice versa. Betting on an appeals court is an iffy proposition. Ruling on appeals essentially means the court is ruling on the judges decision, not reinterpreting the case itself.
A third way
As Andrew Brandt points out at the NFP, Judge Nelson could take a third approach, ordering the two sides back to the negotiating table, under her supervision. That might actually be the best course of action in that if a deal were to get done, the result could be lasting labor peace...for a while anyway.
Beyond that, it's impossible to say what happens. Ordering both sides back to the table might be the only way to keep this fight out of court at this point in time.
There's another important court date on the horizon: May 21. That's when Judge Doty takes up the case of damages for the players in the television contracts, i.e. lockout insurance, case. That ruling could change the situation by hitting the owners pretty hard in the wallet, perhaps giving new reason to take up talks again.
Football may start sooner rather than later, but this fight could drag on for years, depending on what happens with the current spate of court cases. Either way, fire up the grills, pop a top and get ready for the Injunction Bowl!