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Judge rules in favor of players in lockout ruling

04.25.11 at 5:58 pm ET
By

Judge Nelson (AP)

In the labor battle between the NFL owners and players, Federal Judge Susan Richard Nelson ruled for players Monday afternoon, lifting the lockout. The work stoppage, the first in the NFL since 1987, has been in effect since last month.

In an 89-page ruling, Nelson wrote that the plaintiffs “have made a strong showing that allowing the League to continue their ‘lockout’ is presently inflicting, and will continue to inflict, irreparable harm upon them, particularly when weighed against the lack of any real injury that would be imposed on the NFL by issuing the preliminary injunction.”

“(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,” Nelson 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.”

“I’m happy for our guys and for our fans,” said NFLPA chief DeMaurice Smith. “Today, those who love football are the winners.”

“Today’s ruling is a win for the players and for the fans that want to see a full NFL season in 2011,” said New York Giants defensive lineman Osi Umemyiora. “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 owners are now expected to appeal the decision to Nelson, and then the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. If the owners are unable to win an appeal — and a ruling is reportedly expected to come down relatively quickly — then the players could return to work immediately.

“We will promptly seek a stay from Judge Nelson pending an expedited appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the league said in a statement issued shortly after the ruling was made public. “We believe that federal law bars injunctions in labor disputes. 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.”

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