St. Paul, Minn. – Federal District Judge Susan Nelson said late this afternoon that she will rule “in a couple of weeks” whether to grant an injunction to lift the NFL’s lockout. The request was made by attorneys representing NFL players suing the league on antitrust grounds.
The players, who include quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, as well as Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora and six others, want the league’s lockout, which began March 12, to end and the NFL to resume operations as quickly as possible.
Nelson suggested that the two sides resume federally mediated talks, although she did not order it. Afterward, both sides offered conflicting versions of how they felt Nelson meant the offer, and it appeared unlikely they’ll resume talks.
“It seems to me both sides are at risk and this is a very good time for you to come back to the table,” she said.
Attorneys for the players are willing to resume talks, but only if they involve settling the antitrust litigation. The NFL’s attorneys argue, however, that they want to resume mediated collective bargaining talks in Washington, D.C. that had previously lasted 16 days before ending on March 11.
Nelson heard arguments today from Jim Quinn, who was representing the active players, and Michael Hausfeld, representing retired players Carl Eller, Priest Holmes and others. NFL attorney David Boies argued that Nelson doesn’t have jurisdiction to make a decision on lifting the locking, citing the Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932. Boies also argued that the NFLPA’s decertification as a union on March 11 abruptly ended collective bargaining agreement negotiations, and as a result should allow the lockout to continue because it is a legal tool in labor talks.
Nelson admonished Boies and said she did have jurisdiction in the case, although she said she hadn't made up her mind whether she will grant the injunction to lift the lockout.
"The decision (to decertify) was a tactic in collective bargaining," Boies said. "Do you flip a switch and the antitrust exemption ends? The players say yes. We say no." (graph)
Quinn said the NFLPA's previous decision to decertify in 1989 was upheld, and that this year's action should be, too.
"Every argument has been made before and Judge (David) Doty found that the disclaimer (decertification) was valid," Quinn said. “We’ve done what we’re allowed to do under the law.