NFL lockout: league, players to resume talks

April 18, 2011

Talks between the NFL and its locked-out players before a mediator are scheduled to resume Tuesday in Minneapolis, with a decision by a federal judge about whether to end the sport’s shutdown looming.

Barring significant progress in the mediated talks, the next meaningful development would be U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson’s ruling on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction to end the lockout.

At the conclusion of an April 6 hearing in Nelson’s courtroom in St. Paul, Minn., she told the league and players it would take her a couple of weeks to rule on the players’ request.

The players’ side argued at the hearing that the lockout is illegal because the players no longer are represented by a union, and the players will suffer irreparable harm unless the lockout is lifted. The league argued that federal labor law prohibits Nelson from granting the injunction request.

If Nelson grants the request, the league would ask for a stay of the injunction pending its appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. The request for a stay would be made first to Nelson and then, if she rejects it, to the appeals court.

The sport would resume operations at least temporarily if Nelson grants the players’ injunction request and the league is unable to get a stay. Under those circumstances, there have been previous indications that the league would be likely to use the rules that were in place last season, which was played without a salary cap.

Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan met jointly with the league and the players’ side last Thursday and Friday at a federal courthouse in Minneapolis. He held a separate meeting with each side earlier last week. The league and players cannot be forced into an agreement during the mediation process.

Nelson appointed Boylan the mediator last week when she ordered the resumption of talks.

The lockout began March 12, one day after talks before federal mediator George H. Cohen collapsed and the players dissolved their union and filed an antitrust lawsuit against team owners. All free agent activity and trades of players have been on hold since the lockout began. The NFL draft is to be held as scheduled April 28-30 under a provision in the sport’s expired collective bargaining agreement.

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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