Judge grants players' injunction; NFL appeals ruling

MINNEAPOLIS -- The plaintiffs in the Brady et al v. National Football League case were granted an injunction on Monday by Judge Susan Nelson, lifting the NFL lockout, if temporarily.

The NFL's stance on the matter now is that the lockout rules remain intact until Nelson, and then the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, rule on whether or not the ruling will be stayed upon appeal. In reaction to Nelson's ruling, the league filed its appeal with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and a request for a stay with Nelson on Monday night.

"We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in statement, prior to filing the appeal. "We are confident that the Eighth Circuit will agree. But we also believe that this dispute will inevitably end with a collective bargaining agreement, which would be in the best interests of players, clubs and fans. We can reach a fair agreement only if we continue negotiations toward that goal."

The news set the stage for an interesting Tuesday morning, with the possibility of many players reporting to their respective team's headquarters.

Aiello said late Monday night that if players show up, they will be allowed into facilities.

"If a player comes to the facility, he will be treated courteously and with respect," Aiello said.

NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora spoke with one NFL executive who described the league's approach to players showing up to team facility as "Be nice," with teams instructed to allow players in the facility. Team personnel will "explain we're waiting to hear" word regarding a decision on a stay. Team representatives will "ask them to wait until that ruling," to begin going about what would be a normal workday this time of year, which generally consists of a morning workout.

Vikings linebacker Ben Leber, one of the 10 plaintiffs in the still-pending antitrust lawsuit filed against the league, won't be heading to club facilities due to his free agent status, but said he would advice players to "go back to work."

"We're in a 'Wild West' right now," Leber said. "Football is back to business, but guess what? There's no rules. There's a lot of positive to that, but there's also a lot of negatives."

Bills safety George Wilson confirmed that the NFLPA emailed players late Monday suggesting they report to work on Tuesday. He said players were told they should be granted access under normal circumstances and if they are denied access the teams would be in violation of the judge's ruling.

"We have received inquiry from a number of players and agents. We have simply responded and told them we don't see anything wrong with it," NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah said in a text message to The Associated Press. "Players are organizing stuff on their own ..."

Player agent Brad Blank advised client Chris Canty of the New York Giants, due a $250,000 workout bonus this offseason, to report to work in the morning. The logic being that by showing up Canty would strengthen his case to recoup whatever money might be lost in the labor fight.

"I definitely plan on going to work tomorrow," Canty confirmed to *The New York Daily News*, via email. "We'll see what happens."

Oakland Raiders player representative Zach Miller had a similar message, according to the Bay Area News Group.

"Any player that chooses to should be allowed to go into the facility tomorrow," Miller said.

While some such as Steelers player rep Ryan Clark are advising teammates to report in support of the judge's ruling, others are recommending their teammates to stay home.

Lions player representative Kyle Vanden Bosch told the Detroit Free Press he is advising his teammates not to show up at team headquarters for the time being.

"I don't want to put the players or the team in a situation that we don't want to be in," Vanden Bosch said. "I don't want to tell guys to go and find out that we really can't work out there. I'm just kind of telling everybody to, at least for tomorrow, do what you were going to do until I get more information about what we can and can't do. Just kind of hold tight a little bit."

Meanwhile, the NFL held a 7 p.m. conference call for all league executives to discuss how to move forward.

The group remains united, according to a source with knowledge of the call. The decision by Nelson was expected, with the league's legal team advising that their best odds for winning in court rested with the appeals court.

Former solicitor general Paul Clement is, as expected, listed first among the NFL's attorneys on its seven-page appeal. Additionally, Aiello said in an email, "We do not intend to start the league year until we have had an opportunity to seek a stay."

When asked his side's stance on the 2011 league year starting on Monday night, NFL Players Association outside counsel and the Brady counsel's lead lawyer on the injunction, James Quinn, responded via email that "There is no stay in place. It should start immediately."

During the April 6 injunction hearing, the league's case stood on two main points: That the National Labor Relations Board had to rule on the validity of the NFLPA's decertification as a union first, and as such Nelson lacked primary jurisdiction; And that the Norris-Laguardia Act precluded any court from enacting an injunction in a case arising from a labor dispute.

Nelson shot down both those claims in her 89-page ruling, writing that, "This Court, having found that the Union's unequivocal disclaimer is valid and effective, concludes there is no need to defer any issue to the NLRB. Because that disclaimer is valid and effective, the Norris-LaGuardia Act's prohibition against injunctive relief does not preclude granting the Player's motion for a preliminary injunction against what the League characterizes as a 'lockout.' "

In an opinion piece posted on the *Wall Street Journal* 's website Tuesday night, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell cautioned that Nelson's ruling "may significantly alter professional football as we know it."

"Judge Nelson ordered the end of the (work) stoppage and recognized the players' right to dissolve their union. By blessing this negotiating tactic, the decision may endanger one of the most popular and successful sports leagues in history," Goodell wrote.

NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith reacted to Nelson's ruling in a statement, saying that "I'm happy for our guys and for our fans. Today, those who love football are the winners."

Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, one of 10 named plaintiffs for the Brady class, said that "Today's ruling is a win for the players and for the fans that want to see a full NFL season in 2011. The lockout is bad for everyone and players will continue to fight it. We hope that this will bring us one step closer to playing the game we love."

The NFL is expecting the next step in the process to begin Tuesday, with a ruling on the stay expected to come quickly. The league procedurally has to go to Nelson for the stay first, but the decision on that could ultimately land with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Nelson did make her point clear that her judgment was the players are suffering "irreparable harm," and that the impact the lockout has had on the public played into her decision as well.

"[T]he public ramifications of this dispute exceed the abstract principles of the antitrust laws, as professional football involves many layers of tangible economic impact, ranging from broadcast revenues down to concessions sales," she wrote. "And, of course, the public interest represented by the fans of professional football -- who have a strong investment in the 2011 season -- is an intangible interest that weighs against the lockout. In short, this particular employment dispute is far from a purely private argument over compensation."

NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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