Locked-out NFL players and officials of their dissolved union will not hold a competing event for college players on the opening night of the league’s draft, sources familiar with the deliberations said Monday.
The players’ side plans to hold a draft evening event on April 28 in New York but it is scheduled to end before the 8 p.m. beginning of the first round of the draft, the sources said.
The decision about whether to attend the draft at Radio City Music Hall will be left to the college players and their families, the sources said.
George Atallah, the assistant executive director of external affairs for the dissolved union, wrote on Twitter that the “NFLPA is not asking players or agents to boycott the NFL draft.”
According to sources, veteran players and officials of the former union had been considering whether to host an alternative draft night ceremony in New York at the same time as the draft.
The veteran players and the former union officials would have encouraged potential draftees to attend the players’ event rather than the NFL draft ceremony.
The draft will be held April 28-30. The sport’s previous labor deal contained a provision for this year’s draft to be held despite the lockout of players imposed by owners on March 12.
The latest development in the draft night plans came on the day attorneys for the players reiterated in a new court filing that they believe a federal judge in Minnesota should grant a preliminary injunction halting the lockout.
The brief came in reply to a court filing last week by the league. The players’ brief rejected arguments made by the league last week in asking the judge to keep the lockout in place.
The players’ attorneys argued Monday that the players have the right not to unionize if they choose. Labor law permits the injunction request to be granted, the players’ attorneys contended in the brief.
The players’ court filing argued that the court should not wait for a ruling by the National Labor Relations Board. The players would suffer irreparable harm by not having access to a free market and the ability to play the sport if the injunction isn’t granted, the players’ court filing maintained, adding that NFL teams shouldn’t be shielded from having to comply with antitrust laws.
Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of public relations, said in a written statement there were “no surprises or arguments we did not expect” in the players’ brief and the players’ attorneys “still fail to come to terms with the jurisdictional principles that bar an injunction in this case.”
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson has scheduled a hearing for April 6 in St.Paul, Minn., on the players’ request for an injunction that would end the lockout. Owners locked out players March 12, one day after negotiations collapsed and the players dissolved their union and filed an antitrust lawsuit against owners.
In a filing to Nelson’s court last week, the NFL argued that Nelson should not make a decision on the players’ request until after the NLRB rules on the league’s charge that the union’s decertification was a sham.
The NFL claims that the NFL Players Association was dissolved simply as a bargaining tactic and that the former union did not bargain in good faith.
The NLRB has not given a timetable for the completion of its investigation.
The league also argued in its filing last week that labor law prohibits Nelson from granting the players’ request for a preliminary injunction because the players are unlikely to win their antitrust lawsuit against team owners and do not face irreparable harm if the injunction request is not granted.
Also Monday, former players filed suit against the NFL, asking the judge to prevent the NFL from withholding health and retirement benefits they say they are entitled to.
They sought to represent all former players as a class.
Seeking to represent the class are Minnesota Vikings’ Hall of Famer Carl Eller; former Kansas City Chiefs star running back Priest Holmes; Obafemi Ayanbadejo, who played fullback for the Vikings, Ravens, Dolphins, Cardinals and Bears; and Ryan Collins, a former tight end for the Ravens and Browns.