National Football League team owners were ordered by a federal judge to end their month-old lockout of players.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul, Minnesota, today granted the injunction in a lawsuit filed by 10 NFL players, including Super Bowl winning quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who accused the league of anticompetitive practices that violated federal antitrust laws.
“The players’ motion is confined to a very precise and narrow issue regarding only one of the antitrust claims -- whether the NFL may lock out the players,” Nelson said in her ruling.
“That the policies and decisions of the individual teams constitute ‘concerted action’ seems plain,” the judge said, concluding the players had established the “requisite fair chance of success” on the merits of that claim.
The NFL declared a labor lockout on March 12 after talks to create a new collective bargaining agreement failed and the players association said it no longer would act as a union.
Areas of dispute include the division of $9 billion in annual revenue, extending the season to 18 games from 16, a rookie salary cap and health care for players.
“We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,” Greg Aiello, a spokesmen for the New York-based NFL, said in an e-mailed statement. “We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree.”
Aiello said the league believes the dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement.
“We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal,” he said.
James W. Quinn, a lawyer for the players, said in an e- mailed statement, “The players want to play. Whether this will move the other side to a place of rationality? Who knows?”
The case is Brady v. NFL, 0:11-639, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (St. Paul).
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