The Lockout is Dead (long live the Lockout)

Lead NFL counsel David Boies no doubt considers this but a speedbump in the process. Football lovers don’t celebrate yet — Judge Nelson’s ruling is but a speedbump for NFL lead counsel David Boies and their mission to “take back the league.” While they trade arguments and appeals, our Lockout purgatory continues…

There was really no win here for NFL fans, even though Judge Susan Nelson has ruled against the NFL Owners’ ability to lock out their no-longer-unionized players. And really, she had very little choice in the matter but to rule, once it became clear that neither side was committed to her preferred process of mediation. From her statement: 

“Ensuing delay would simply exacerbate the irreparable harm the Players are incurring every day the so-called ‘lockout’ continues.”

(All quotes from the proceedings are taken from Daniel Kaplan of the Sports Business Journal (@dkaplansbj).)

As a former mediator, Nelson prides herself in finding a middle ground between parties, or in coercing them to act like grown-ups and find it themselves. However, the legal position of the NFL proved intractable. Their arguments were two-fold:

Owners: We have every right to lock out an opposing union. The players’ non-union is still a union. Their decertification is a sham (not that we expect you to rule on this, since we already have a case before the National Labor Review Board).

Judge Nelson’s response (emphasis mine):

“This Court finds that the disclaimer is not a mere tactic because it results in serious consequences for the Players… employees have the right not to be a union as much as they have the right to be or organize as a union.”

Owners: The Norris-Laguardia act says that no judge can end a lockout. Therefore, you can’t rule in this case.

Today, Judge Nelson’s actions said, in effect: “Oh yeah? Just watch me.”