MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A federal judge on Wednesday refused the NFL’s request to stay her injunction of its lockout pending appeal, saying the NFL and team owners failed to demonstrate any real irreparable harm, especially when weighed against the players.
The NFL sought a stay this week immediately after U.S. District Judge Nelson granted the players’ request for a preliminary injunction.
Nelson rebuffed the NFL’s argument that without a stay it would suffer irreparable harm because it is “unprepared to resume business operations.”
In a 20-page Memorandum Opinion and Order, Nelson provided examples of how the NFL took specific actions to lay operational groundwork for the 2011 season, including conducting the annual college draft from April 28-30 and sending contract tenders for the 2011 season to free agents.
“The NFL argues that it will suffer irreversible injury and irreparable harm – not because the lockout has been lifted – but by the potential signing of contracts between owners and players in a free agency market … That argument is based on the incorrect premise that this Court’s Order somehow enjoined the restraints on player free agency alleged to violate the antitrust laws in the Brady plaintiffs’ complaint,” Nelson wrote.
“With respect to the NFL’s alleged injuries, this Court finds the League’s claim of irreparable harm, absent a stay, misplaced. The League may choose to act in accordance with its expressed belief that the Players remain a union and that they have reached a state of impasse, or the League may choose to chart a different course, implementing a version of the 2010 player system, or something different altogether. This Court’s Order does not obligate the NFL to enter into contracts, nor does it proscribe the League’s non-lockout conduct in general. Like any defendant in any lawsuit, defendants themselves must make a decision about how to proceed and accept the consequences of their decision.”
Nelson did not wholly squash the NFL. She agreed that the players’ request for the NFL to post a $1 billion bond was inconsistent with the players’ position that their injuries cannot be compensated by monetary damages.
Nelson cited the NFL’s argument that “plaintiffs’ request for a ‘supersedeas bond’ is procedurally incorrect; and that, because the NFL’s solvency is not in question, a bond is unnecessary. Because this Court denies the motion for a stay, the Brady Plaintiffs’ request for the posting of a bond is moot.”
Nelson said the NFL is under no obligation to enter a new contract with any player, but the players are faced with immediate harm because of their short careers.
“The public interest in enforcing the Sherman Act and in considering the wide-scale ramifications of a lost football season to the public weighs in favor of denying the NFL’s motion for a stay.”