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Breaking: 8th Circuit Issues Ruling That NFL Lockout May Continue, But Questions Remain

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As we all were waiting for some big news to break regarding an agreement in principle between the owners and players meeting in NYC on a new collective bargaining agreement, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals decided to throw a monkey wrench into the whole process by issuing a 34-page ruling on the Tom Brady v. NFL antitrust case.

From PFT:

The Eighth Circuit has posted at its website a 34-page decision that strikes down Judge Nelson’s decision and allows the lockout to continue.

Specifically, the Eighth Circuit ruled that the Norris-LaGuardia Act prevents courts from issuing orders that end strikes or lockouts.  Judge Bye, to no surprise, disagreed with the ruling.

While it appears to be a big win for the NFL, it wasn’t unexpected.  And it’s far from the complete win the NFL wanted at this stage.  As to the critically important question of whether the nonstatutory labor exemption survives the decertification of the NFLPA, the Eighth Circuit made no ruling — which means that even though the lockout can continue, a chance remains that the lockout later will be found to be illegal, exposing the NFL to a potential verdict of $12 billion or more if the 2011 season is lost.

The bottom line is that it is a ruling neither side should view as favorable. While it does keep the lockout going, the ruling states clearly that the NFL owners cannot lockout players not under contract, such as rookies like Anthony Castonzo and free agents like Joseph Addai and Peyton Manning.

From Adam Schefter:

8th Circuit ruled NFL cannot lockout players not under contract -- i.e. rookies, free agents -- because there is no employment relationship.

As noted, 8th Circuit delivered on promise of neither side being completely happy because of free agent/rookie instructions.

Ruling does not allow unsigned players to start signing asap -- it kicks back to Judge Nelson for a hearing, though, she'd greenlight it.

Basically, what this ruling should do is SERIOUSLY motivate both sides to get a deal done now! If not, chaos will ensue.