We are on the brink of the first potential leverage either side in the NFL labor fight has had since the lockout by the owners was announced March 11 as Judge Susan Nelson of the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis is reportedly ready to rule on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout as part of the Brady v. NFL lawsuit.
However, the victor in Judge Nelson’s ruling will have a short-lived time to celebrate as there will be an immediate appeal on the injunction ruling by the losing side. That means the real leverage for one side won’t be decided until the appeal is heard in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.
To revisit the issues behind Brady v. NFL, National Football Post’s Andrew Brandt, who is also reporting on the labor fight for ESPN.com did a primer on March 18 for NFP.
Brandt did an update on April 20 which touched on the mediation brokered by Judge Nelson in advance of her decision and where the situation may be headed in the coming weeks.
Another pressure point will come May 12 when Judge David Doty will hold a hearing to decide damages in the TV lockout-funding case brought by the players against the owners. A major award to the players of money that the owners expected to have as a “war chest” in the lockout could also shift leverage. Doty ruled against the owners in the suit in early March.
Late last week, there were reports that some NFL players were interested in having a seat at the mediation table in Minneapolis. The NFLPA, through its’ NFLLockout.com web site, made an email public from an unspecified law firm looking for 70 potential clients to intervene in the mediation, which broke off April 20.
Meawhile, unlike the previous mediation talks in Washington with George Cohen of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, where details were leaked almost daily, the mediation under Judge Arthur Boylan was done under a gag order which carried real legal issues if it was violated. The mediation talks under Judge Boylan were suspended on April 20 to resume May 16.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t news from the NFL in past two weeks. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held several conference calls with season-ticket holders of the Dolphins, Chargers, Giants and 49ers to go over the league’s positions on the labor issues.
The NFL also released its’ 2011 regular-season schedule. And ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter found that the league built in some safeguards to have a complete schedule even if the first three weeks are not played as planned.
In short, the league has asked Indianapolis to hold hotel rooms for another week to play Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 12 if needed. The league would also take away one of the two weeks between the conference championship games, so teams would have to head to Indy the day after winning their respective conference titles for Super Bowl week. Also, every Week 3 game has been safeguarded as the teams off in a particular bye week match up to their Week 3 opponent.
So, according to ESPN, the season could start as late as October 2 (Week 4) and a full 16-game schedule could be played.