In a potentially significant shift of leverage in the dispute between the NFL and its players, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has granted the league's request for a full stay of the injunction that briefly ended the lockout, meaning that pro football's work stoppage could continue into late June or early July unless there is a new labor agreement.
The league had asked the appeals court to keep the lockout intact until the NFL's injunction appeal was decided. District Court Judge Susan Nelson had granted the injunction last month, and the NFL opened for business for less than a day before the league's request for a stay was granted by the appeals court.
The decision comes on the same day that the league and player representatives resumed court-ordered mediation as part of Nelson's initial decision. The two sides had taken a month-long break because the mediator, Judge Arthur Boylan, had determined that the parties wanted to await further court rulings before engaging in further discussions.
Today's appeals court decision could mean that little substantive progress will be made by mediation, because both sides are anxious to have the appeal decided. But it could also hasten talks aimed at a new agreement. In fact, late yesterday, word surfaced that the owners were prepared to make a new offer to the players.
A hearing is scheduled for June 3 in St. Louis before the three-judge panel that made the decision on the full stay. The vote was 2-1, the same as the previous vote to allow a temporary stay. In both decisions, the dissenting vote was cast by Judge Kermit Bye.
The other two judges indicated that they sided with the NFL's interpretation of the Norris-LaGuardia Act, which stipulates that federal judges cannot issue injunctions in labor disputes.
"In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin
the League’s lockout, and accordingly conclude that the League has made a strong
showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits," the decision read.