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Judge denies NFL's stay request

NFL players suing the league on antitrust grounds scored another courtroom victory late Wednesday night, as Federal District Court Judge Susan Nelson denied the league’s request for a stay to the preliminary injunction she granted Monday to lift the six-week-old lockout. 

The league will now take their case to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and request that the higher court reverse Nelson’s ruling and issue a stay, pending the NFL’s appeal of Nelson’s injunction to end the lockout.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said late night that the league was evaluating Nelson’s decision and will advise clubs this morning on how to proceed. 

"We are filing [Wednesday night] a request with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending our appeal. We believe there are strong legal and practical reasons that support a stay and that the Court of Appeals should have an opportunity to address the important legal issues that will be presented. We have asked the Court of Appeals to consider on an expedited basis both our request for a stay and the appeal itself. We are evaluating the District Court's decision and will advise our clubs in the morning on how to proceed."

The NFL filed a request for a stay within hours of Monday’s late-afternoon injunction, and Nelson found that the league didn’t meet the burden for granting the stay. In the short term, this could mean that the NFL is forced to begin the new league year, which means free agency and trades could soon resume. 

It’s uncertain when that period would begin, however. The league’s annual draft is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday. Because of the lockout, teams were not permitted to trade players, only draft picks, during the selection process. It remains unknown at this point whether those rules would change at any point during the draft, and whether players could be traded or free agents could be signed. 

The injunction request was initially filed by two groups of players suing the NFL on antitrust grounds. Nelson ruled nearly three weeks after an April 6 hearing to grant the injunction. 

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the Brady et al v. the National Football League case on Wednesday filed a 23-page brief to argue against the NFL’s motion to stay the injunction. In the filing, NFL Players Association local counsel Barbara Berens argued that players should “not be prevented from working one day longer” and that the league should post a $1 billion bond if a stay is granted. That figure represents approximately 25 percent of the total revenues earned by players last season. arrived at by dividing the total compensation. 

The league filed its response to the $1 billion bond request and said players would be properly compensated in damages if they were to be awarded in the antitrust case. The league’s brief said the players’ request was “inconsistent with the argument that they made in support of their request for an injunction that the harm they suffer from the lockout is not compensable in monetary damages.” 

The bond won’t be necessary, now that Nelson denied the motion for a stay. 

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said earlier on Wednesday there was still a good amount of uncertainty about just how to proceed in the wake of Nelson’s ruling on Monday. And that may continue until the league has its request for a stay heard by the Eighth Circuit. Some teams allowed their players inside their training facilities once the lockout was lifted, and most teams prohibited players from working out. The Giants allowed players to work out on Tuesday, but decided later that night that anyone reporting to the practice complex wouldn’t be permitted to work out. 

“I think we have to wait until we hear what the judge’s ruling is first and then try to understand what her instructions are and then we’ll deal with it from there,” he said. “We have to react to when judgments are made and then we are obviously going to comply with those judgments. But we also want to make sure it’s done in an orderly fashion.” 

Goodell said that the league is “prepared for every contingency,” but that he hoped to get back to the bargaining table to work out a long-term solution. 

“Litigation is not going to resolve this matter, and the sooner we can get back to the table and start discussing the issues, we can get an agreement,” he said. “That’s where it’s going to come from – the two parties. And the judge made that clear.” 

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