Thursday, April 28, 2011

Latest NFL Lockout News (UPDATED)

(Updated Two Three Four updates below)

The owners have filed a letter in the Eighth Circuit responding the players' letter from earlier this morning, and attaching a letter from the players' counsel (James Quinn of Weil Gotshal) indicating that it was the players' view that league operations must resume immediately and that the owners were in contempt if they did not. Check back shortly for more.

UPDATE: Earlier today, James Quinn, attorney for the players, sent a letter to Gregg Levy, attorney for the NFL, which concluded, "Please confirm that the League will commence 2011 league operations with immediate effect, including the opening of the free agent signing period and the provision of player access to team workout facilities and personnel. Failure by the NFL Defendants to comply with the Injunction Order is grounds for contempt, and the Plaintiffs will pursue appropriate remedies."

Fifteen minutes ago, the League wrote a letter to the Eighth Circuit, attaching Quinn's letter and reiterating their request for a temporary stay. In their letter this morning, the players wrote that they would like the Eighth Circuit to hold the owners request "in abeyance" -- saying, essentially, "Please don't rule on this until we can get out papers in tomorrow". The owners (rightly, I think) are saying that delaying a decision is like denying the request: if the Eighth Circuit does not issue a temporary stay, the players will argue that the League must resume business immediately, on pain of contempt, with the threat of "appropriate remedies".

Remember, a "temporary stay" means that the Eighth Circuit would temporarily put Judge Nelson's decision on hold -- preventing the start of the new League year -- until it makes a final decision about staying her decision while the actual appeal is pending. The owners write that a temporary stay would only last a few days, and in this regard they are probably right.

I suspect that the owners will get their temporary stay. The players will put in their opposition to the stay tomorrow afternoon, the owners will respond, and we will have an actual stay decision within a few days. Getting that stay -- to put the decision on hold for the pendency of the entire appeal, a process that could take months -- will probably be much harder to come by.

UPDATE TWO (1:20 pm): The Eighth Circuit just issued an order which reads,

The National Football League has filed a motion for stay pending appeal and to expedite the appeal. The Players are directed to file a response to this motion by Noon, CDST, on Friday, April 29, 2011. The League’s reply to the response is due by 9:00 a.m. CDST, on Monday, May 2, 2011.

The League’s motion for a temporary stay remains pending before the court.
I wonder why the temporary stay motion was not decided yet. Probably not great news for the owners, though it's always hard to predict these things.

UPDATE THREE (1:40 pm): The rumblings are that the players will write a letter to Judge Nelson to clarify that the League year must begin tomorrow. The NFL sent a memo to the owners indicating that facilities could open for business, but specifically not issuing any guidelines on free agency, trades, etc. Remember, in his letter earlier today, players' attorney James Quinn wanted the League to confirm that the "League will commence 2011 league operations with immediate effect, including the opening of the free agent signing period and the provision of player access to team workout facilities and personnel". The League only agreed to one of those two things, but it appears that the League's memo was sent just before the Eighth Circuit's order taking no action on the temporary stay. If no temporary stay issues, contempt proceedings become much more likely.

UPDATE FOUR (4:20 pm): This afternoon, the players filed yet another letter with the Eighth Circuit, seeking to make "one final point" regarding the owners' request for a temporary stay. In short, they contested the owners' factual assertions, arguing that the league would suffer no harm by immediately lifting the lockout. They attached NFL's post-injunction memo to teams, which had specific provisions regarding OTAs, workouts, etc. -- but specifically did not mention player transactions. The players have been insisting that free agency must open immediately, and this letter continues that theme and attacks the owners for not complying with Monday's order lifting the lockout. No word yet on when the Eighth Circuit will rule on the temporary stay request.

As a practical matter, this doesn't change much -- we have heard these arguments before -- but it does suggest that the players are not backing down from the position that the League year must begin immediately, and presumably that failure to do so constitutes contempt.


  1. Even if a temporary stay is granted, how would that change the landscape of the events in this case? As you previuosly intimated, it is unlikely that a stay for the entire appeal process would be granted. As I understand, it seems as if we'd just be back at square one.

  2. The temporary stay would be important in the short term because it means that the League year does not have to start for a few days. The plaintiffs' view is that the League year does not resume immediately, the owners are in contempt.

  3. (nonlawyer here) What is the likelihood of a motion for contempt being filed (or granted) before the 8th circuit rules?

  4. @1:29, if the League doesn't resume free agency soon (say, by tomorrow), I think it's likely that contempt motions will be filed. I don't think we will see a RULING on the motion before the Eighth Circuit rules on the stay, which will probably be early next week. [If the Eighth Circuit issues a stay, the contempt issue is moot; if it denies the stay, the owners will probably resume free agency, also rendering the contempt issue moot.]

  5. From a fan's perspective, I wonder if there will be any trades during tonight's draft. "conducting business as usual" can't necessarily mean that owners would be forced to conduct trades, right. But what if one team wanted to initiated conversations, and the other simply said "no" due to the instant cirucmstances? This whole thing is making my head spin.

  6. @4:44, that's a good question. The conventional wisdom right now is that we'll see pick-for-pick trades, but no trades involving players. If a team just "didn't feel like it", that's one thing (as Judge Nelson points out, no team is obligated to sign, or presumably trade for, another). But if the League instructs teams not to engage in trades, then we might have an issue, because the lockout is supposed to be over, meaning that there are to be no restrictions on player movement.

  7. Who cares about all the legalese? All that matters is if Cam Newton will be selected by Detroit, thus ensuring him a career-ending injury.

  8. Why can't their be a fast food draft? That way we'd be able to figure out which place has the best fries and be done with it:


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