Judge Susan Nelson has granted an injuction to the players in the Brady vs NFL lawsuit and lifted the lockout. The NFL immediately filed an appeal and asked for an expedited stay of the ruling by Nelson pending the results of the appeal.
These court actions essentially have us waiting until next Tuesday to see if the stay is granted. But if it isn't, the NFL will lose much of its leverage in negotiations with the players. That is because the players will be allowed to come back to work and the teams will be obligated to begin paying them any bonuses that would be due.If the appeals court refuses to issue a stay of the ruling by Judge Nelson, then she will stipulate the rules under which the two sides are to proceed when the players report for work. Nelson will be likely to simply reinstate the terms of the previous CBA rather than making separate rulings about salary caps, free agency, revenue sharing, and dozens of other issues.
For the fans, this could be interesting news since it could mean the NFL will be forced to go back to a reasonably normal business climate while the new CBA is negotiated.
I have looked at this situation a little more closely and I have discovered that one of my assumptions was wrong. Judge Nelson has no obligation to impose a set of operational rules on the NFL. If there is no stay and the lockout is lifted, it looks like we will be back to the old way of doing things from before the union. What that means, is that the owners can simply tell the players what the rules are and they will have to decide if they want to play under those conditions or not.
Frankly, I do not see how that helped the players in any way. All it means is that their litigation has essentially destroyed their players union and returned them to the owners being able to dictate the rules to them. While it removes the salary cap, that doesn't mean that teams will go crazy and give big contracts. We have already seen that during the uncapped season, most of the teams were very responsible with money. The ones that played fast and loose with the budget, like the Redskins did not fare very well.
It is going to be very int3eresting to see how this plays out, but the players might have just broken their own union. They cannot reform the union without giving the owners the ability to lock them out again. The players "trade organization" cannot operate as a union or the courts will ding them for that as well. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board still must rule on that issue. If you ask me, the players may have miscalculated here and lost more than they won.