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NFL Players Show Irreparable Harm; Preliminary Injunction On Lockout Is Granted

The NFL Lockout is enjoined…for the moment.  But let’s live in the moment and take a look at the opinion handed down yesterday by Judge Susan Richard Nelson in the United States District Court District of Minnesota.

The dry and dirty: The motion for a preliminary injunction on the NFL Lockout was granted.

If you want a nice history lesson, start reading from the beginning of the opinion.  Otherwise, skip to page 13 and pay close attention to the following blurb:

A lockout occurs when an employer lays off or ‘locks out’ its unionized employees during a labor dispute to bring economic pressure in support of the employer’s bargaining position. See American Ship Bldg. Co. v.N.L.RB., 380 U.S. 300, 301-302 (1965) (permitting management lockouts as a collective bargaining negotiating tool, as a counterpart to a union’s right to strike).

From here on, you know what Judge Nelson is going to say.  Since the players were technically not unionized when the NFL decided to lock out the players, it was technically not a justifiable lockout.  Read on and you will understand that Judge Nelson did not believe the decertification of the NFLPA as a union to be any sort of sham.

To justify an injunction on the lockout, the Plaintiffs had to show irreparable harm had it stayed in place.  This is the type of harm which cannot be tied to a particular dollar amount.  The other three elements needed to be proven were: fair chance at success on the merits, the irreparable harm outweighs the harm an injunction would cause the NFL, and that the injunction was in the public interest.  Shout out to agents Frank Bauer, Tom Condon, Neil Cornrich, Tony Agnone, William Vann McElroy, Donald Yee, and Neil Schwartz for providing persuasive declarations to the Judge.  Even more persuasive were the cited cases with authority where the Court “recognized that the threat of harm shown by Plaintiffs here, including lost playing time, constitutes irreparable harm.”

The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1935: The NFL wanted to use this Act to preclude injunctive relief, but failed in its effort.  It failed because Judge Nelson found that the Plaintiffs were no longer represented by a Union, which is something the NFL continues to dispute, stating that decertification was a sham and that the NFLPA is still practically the same unit as it was prior to its purported transition to a trade association.  Judge Nelson also did not buy the NFL’s argument that the question of whether decertification was a sham or not was a decision to be made exclusively by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to decide, and/or that she should hold off on granting an injunction until after the NLRB ruled on the NFL’s unfair labor practice charge (regarding the supposed sham decertification).’

Skip to the end of page 24 and Judge Nelson starts to attack some of the NFL’s arguments, finding different interpretations of the holdings in cases cites by the NFL in an effort to defend its position.

Page 32 in bold: The Minimal, If Any, Benefit That Might Be Derived From Seeking The NLRB’s Expertise Here Is Clearly Outweighed By The Delay Involved, Particularly Where The Players Are Incurring Ongoing Irreparable Harm.  And there is the money shot.  Even though the NLRB has expertise with regards to decertification, Judge Nelson did not believe that staying the action and referring it to the NLRB was worth the substantial delay and continuance of irreparable harm.  Further, Judge Nelson did not think that an expert was necessary to analyze the decertification.

Here is another money shot on page 35: But there is no legal support for any requirement that a disclaimer be permanent. Employees have the right not only to organize as a union but also to refrain from such representation and, as relevant here, to “de-unionize.” 29 U.S.C. § 157

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

One reply on “NFL Players Show Irreparable Harm; Preliminary Injunction On Lockout Is Granted”

Solid post! Nice job summarizing the 89 page opinion written by the Court (no easy task). I also like how you posted the opinion within your blog.

Matt Wasserman –

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