Active, retired players now share lawsuit to end lockout

A federal judge in Minnesota has decided to combine two requests to halt the NFL lockout.

U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said Monday that she will hear arguments from attorneys for Tom Brady, Drew Brees and other current players, as well as attorneys for retired players.

The current players and retirees have filed similar antitrust lawsuits against the league in addition to their requests for an injunction to stop the lockout.

The arguments will be heard Wednesday.

The players say the lockout should be stopped because it is causing irreparable harm. The retirees say it could jeopardize retirement benefits subsidized by the league.

The retirees asked to consolidate the cases. Attorneys for the NFL didn't oppose combining the cases, but they want the lockout kept in place.

Two former players who now are on the owners' labor committee wrote Monday to NFL retirees to outline elements of the offer the league made to the union during negotiations last month.

Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy and Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson said in their letter that "the players' union wasn't listening" to the NFL's "significant offers that would have a measurable impact on the people who made football great."

According to the letter, among the elements of the owners' proposal were:

» a new pension supplement for retired players 55 and older;

» improvements to disability plans;

» a new rookie pay system that would shift more than $300 million annually to benefits for current and retired players.

"Even though current players are locked out, the clubs will fully honor their commitments to you. You didn't cause this dispute, and you won't have to pay for it," Murphy and Richardson wrote.

They added: "There will be no reduction in any retiree benefit programs. We will continue to make all pension payments and contributions. If you are currently receiving post-career medical benefits, you will continue to do so."

Richardson is a co-chairman of the owners' powerful labor committee, and Murphy is one of the other nine members. Both attended some of the federal mediation in Washington that broke off March 11, when the old collective bargaining agreement expired.

Owners locked out the players, creating the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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