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NFL Asks Circuit to Intervene and Let It Continue Lockout

(CN) - Frustrated in District Court, the NFL appealed to the 8th Circuit Wednesday to let a league lockout continue pending appeal.

U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson of Minneapolis had issued an injunction Monday against the lockout by the league and its 32 team owners. She refused to stay that order on Wednesday, so the NFL moved later that day to block the injunction in the St. Louis-based federal appeals court.

The NFL also moved for an expedited appeal and a temporary stay that would enjoin the injunction while 8th Circuit considers the full stay.

In its bid to delegitimize the injunction, the NFL argued that the Norris-LaGuardia Act prohibits courts from issuing preliminary injunctions in labor disputes, that the National Labor Relations Board has primary jurisdiction and that the injunction violates the nonstatutory labor exemption to antitrust laws.

Nelson had rejected the same arguments Wednesday, saying the NFL and team owners failed to demonstrate any real irreparable harm, especially when weighed against the players. Though the NFL is under no obligation to enter a new contract with any player, the players are faced with immediate harm because of their short careers, her ruling states.

The NFL says Nelson unfairly simplified the case and got it wrong.

"In addition to skewing irreparably the collective bargaining process, the preliminary injunction effectively requires the clubs to produce their collective product, thereby exposing them to a host of other potential antitrust claims - many already pled - by these very same plaintiffs," the NFL's 23-page motion states. "In contrast, the players suffer so little immediate and irreparable injury that they did not even seek a temporary restraining order."

Furthermore, the dispute is clearly labor-related and therefore NLRB jurisdiction, the NFL argued.

"Even if one were to indulge the rather fanciful notion that there is no longer a current labor dispute between the players and the League, there is no question but that this case grows out of a labor dispute, and that is all that the Act requires," according to the motion (emphasis in original). "Plaintiffs filed this suit only hours before the CBA [collective bargaining agreement] expired, and only minutes after the Union walked away from labor negotiations conducted under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service; and plaintiffs seek relief concerning the terms and conditions of employment. The purported disclaimer does nothing to change the origins of this action."

The motion for the temporary stay remains pending by Thursday afternoon, but the circuit directed the players, led by Tom Brady, to file a response by noon CDT on Friday. To that response, the NFL must reply by 9 a.m. Monday.

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