A decision on the NFL lockout will come on Monday when Judge Susan Nelson will make her ruling on the initial players case against the NFL regarding the legality of the lockout. The decision will solely be based on her opinion of whether the league was wrong in locking out the players because they were no longer a union. This is what many in the media are hearing will be the decision. However, she could also say that the union’s decertification was a sham and that it was done simply to stop negotiations.
If I were you, I would hope she rules for the latter.
I know, I know, a decision to remove the lockout would potentially put football and even free agency back on the calendar but the league will appeal the decision and it’s likely that the judge will not allow a lift of the lockout until the appeal is heard by the appeals court. Thus, the lockout will continue and it will simply be a minor victory for the players.
If the league is found to have been just in their lockout, sending a blow to the players, then the lockout will continue while the players appeal. But here is the caveat to that. The appeals court is primarily made up of Republican judges who tend to lean more towards the side of business instead of employees. The players know they will have a hard time in the appeals process. Thus, it’s more than likely that they will find themselves back at the bargaining table with the owners sooner rather than later. If the players win this round, they will have little if any incentive to go back to negotiations hoping that they will get a better deal through litigation.
The other issue I have with this is Jeffrey Kessler who is lead council for the players. He has openly stated that he wants the courts to rule that free agency, the draft, and just about everything else that goes on with the NFL is illegal and thus be ordered to stop. In other words, if the players continue to win, there could potentially be no more drafts…which would set precedence for every other sport as well. Free agency would no longer have restrictions and when a contract is up it’s up and that player can do whatever he wants to do. College students could skip college all together or leave after one or two years to sign contracts with the NFL.
In other words, it could be a completely different landscape for professional football.
I want to see football back as much as anyone, but I want to see it back with the structure in place to have a competitive balance as well as the draft and everything else. I want to see a rookie wage scale and a salary cap. If the players win, we might get players back in the training facilities, or even a few free agents changing teams, but this will do nothing for the future of the game and in fact could hinder it. The reality is that whatever decision Nelson makes, it will be appealed. The owners feel confident they will win the appeal and the player to some degree know they could lose it. Unless Judge Nelson orders the lockout lifted while the appeal process continues, there won’t be any football and there won’t be any negotiations either.
If the players win this round, they will allow the litigation to continue knowing they have the upper hand until the appeals process is concluded (sometime in June). If the owners win, the players will go back to negotiations and it’s more likely that when June rolls around, we will have already had a new CBA in place. It’s really the only way we can make any headway in this, at least in my opinion.