City Sports Report

Advantage Players, Now What? By Marc “Razz” Rasbury

On Monday, the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) won a major battle in their war with the NFL owners when Judge Susan Nelson ruled that the owners’ lockout is illegal, and, upon her order, it was lifted.  It is going to be difficult for the owners to appeal it.  So one would think that all is well in NFLPA land. Not so fast my friend!
 
There are a number of issues that have to be resolved before both parties can get back to business as usual, even with the injunction.  Obviously, the owners filed an immediate appeal to Judge Nelson’s ruling, which will be heard by the 8th Circuit of Appeals Court.  Although the higher court has the tendency to rule in favor with “Big Business” and not labor, it will be an uphill battle to overturn Nelson’s finding.  In Judge Nelson’s 89-page ruling, she made it quite clear that the owners are in jeopardy of violating their Anti-Trust status, and that is a path that the League does not want to go down.  The owners would be forced to open their books, something they have been reluctant to do from the very beginning for various reasons.
 
The owners also provided four points in their deposition, justifying the lock out, and Judge Nelson shot each point down.  She stated laws that were already on the books to back her claims and it will be difficult for the 8th Circuit of Appeals Court to overturn her ruling without contradicting existing laws.  Now what does this mean for the NFLPA?
 
There are a number of major issues that have to be resolved before the players can return to work.  The lockout maybe lifted, but the real drama has just begun.  Are they going to honor the expired Collective Bargaining Agreement(CBA) until a new one can be agreed upon?  How are they going to deal with free agent movement until they come up with a new agreement?  All f these points are going to impact this week’s draft.  Teams might pick a player in the draft based on the fear they can not trade or sign a player that plays that same position and could help them immediately, versus banking on an unproven rookie.
 
There were several players on Tuesday that showed up at the training facilities of their teams, only to be denied access to buildings across the League.  Some of those players wanted to resume their rehabilitation workouts with the team trainers.  Some were due workout bonuses based on successfully completing certain conditioning tests, while others just wanted to get back to their annual football regiments.
 
With all of the unknowns we have going on here, one thing is for sure: Judge Nelson’s ruling will bring the owners back to the negotiating table.  The owners have lost the leverage that they thought they would have going into this melodrama.  Judge David Coty ruled that the owners were not negotiating in good faith when they tried to get the networks to pay them, even in the event of a lock out. This allowed the owners to establish a nest egg, even though they were not anticipating having football this fall.  Now Judge Nelson tightened the noose even more with her ruling.
 
The owners thought they had the players by the throat when this drama began.  Now it appears that the tide has turned.  One has to assume that both parties are going to come to agreement on a new CBA. They are going to resolve the money issues, especially since the owners do not want to open up their books.  There are only two main issues that have to be a addressed: a the rookie salary scale and the two additional regular season games.  Both sides agree that they can not continue to pay unproven rookies astronomical salaries, so there should not be any problems on that issue.  Those two extra games are going to shorten careers, and I don’t think either party wants that.
 
Every football fan should send Judge Nelson a bouquet of flowers next Valentine’s Day.  Her ruling basically forced the owners back to the table by lifting the lock out. There could be a stay on her ruling but that is unlikely.  I see football in our future and the future looks good for football fans.