What does Friday’s ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the NFL labor dispute mean to the NBA lockout?
Not a whole lot, it turns out.
The appeals court rendered a narrow ruling Friday overturning a decision by U.S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson that briefly ended the NFL lockout. The three-judge panel, having already issued two stays of Nelson’s ruling, voted 2-1 to overturn it, saying that federal courts have no jurisdiction to end lockouts under the Norris-LaGuardia Act.
The appeals panel did not, however, rule on the broader aspects of the NFL’s appeal – namely, whether the NFL is immune from anti-trust liability during the lockout and whether the players can legally pursue damages as the result of it. Those issues were remanded to Nelson’s court for further hearings.
From the NFL’s standpoint, all of this is likely to be moot, anyway, as the owners and players have been closing in on a new labor deal for weeks. The NBA? Not so much. Other than unrelated business dealings, sources told CBSSports.com Friday that there has been no contact between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association since the lockout was imposed July 1. No bargaining sessions are scheduled, the sources said, and neither side offered a comment on the NFL ruling Friday.
Interestingly, the appeals court also left open the possibility that NFL free agents and drafted rookies who have yet to sign contracts may be permitted to market their services and enter into contracts with prospective teams. This issue also was kicked back to the district court for hearings, but it may prove to be meaningless. Since the appeals court ruled that the district court could not enjoin the lockout, any rookies or free agents who signed contracts would then be locked out anyway if no bargaining agreement has been reached.
So the NBPA will likely not be swayed one way or the other as it weighs the costs and benefits of following the NFLPA’s path of decertification and an anti-trust lawsuit. The NBPA has thus far determined that bargaining is a better path to a CBA than litigation, but the 8th Circuit’s ruling Friday did not present any legal obstacles to decertification; it only stated that a federal court does not have the authority to end a lockout once it is imposed on a decertified union.
If you have nothing to do this weekend – meaning, there is no paint to watch dry or grass to watch grow – you can read the 8th Circuit’s majority and dissenting opinions here.