The text from one member of the former union was succinct: "We've lost. It's probably over. We got our asses kicked."
Another player said he was heading home for the summer to work out, play basketball and finally clean out his cluttered basement. Similar texts came in. Players knew their new normal had arrived. No football. Nothing. For months.
And that, in a nutshell, is where we are. The players have been defeated. The owners have probably won. The only thing left to do in this ugly, brutal fight is for the owners to decide what to do with the carcass. Add mayo? A little hot sauce?
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I'm sorry to say to the players, whom I respect and admire, the fight is likely done. Dragging this out only makes it worse for fans. This is now like the end of an election where a network has declared one side the victor and the loser refuses to accept it's over.
This isn't just a victory for the owners. It's a victory for Roger Goodell, who has appeared stubborn, arrogant and at times mean-spirited. Goodell and the owners haven't taken the noblest of paths but this ruling means they have likely taken a successful one.
When you read the ruling it does not in any way bode well for the future of players in court. The 8th circuit granted the permanent stay but it was also a template for the upcoming battle next month. Basically, this ruling was a foreshadowing.
This was one of several key paragraphs written by the 8th circuit:
"Both sides raise valid points, and this is a case in which one party or the other likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm no matter how this court resolves the motion for a stay pending appeal. We do not agree, however, with the district court's apparent view that the balance of the equities tilts heavily in favor of the Players. The district court gave little or no weight to the harm caused to the League by an injunction issued in the midst of an ongoing dispute over terms and conditions of employment."
Translation: players, you were hurt by the lockout, but not nearly as much as the lower court said you were. That's not good for the players. Their entire strategy has been to use the court system as an equalizer to a more powerful and wealthier owner base. It seems as if the 8th circuit isn't all that sympathetic.
The 8th strongly disagreed with the lower court. That probably won't change in any future cases. This is no shock since the 8th is extremely conservative and pro business friendly. The 8th is the Tea Party of the court system.
"In sum, we think the League has met its burden to demonstrate that it likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay," the court wrote, "and the balance of the equities does not favor the Players so decidedly that it should outweigh our present view about likelihood of success on the merits.
No, the future isn't easily predicted, and things could change. The Judge David Doty ruling on the TV fund lockout issue could also have some impact and be a difference maker. Could. Because the owners, if Doty orders them to pay billions, would appeal that ruling as well and guess where an appeal would go?
Yep, the 8th circuit.
The former union isn't stupid. They see the same thing. While reports of a mediation breakthrough in Minneapolis are extremely optimistic the union now has to be in a better mood to listen because the 8th circuit has given the owners the biggest hammer to date. It's a hammer that would make Thor envious.
I'm told that, contrary to a report by ESPN, there has been no meaningful progress in mediation. The players need to cut a deal now. This doesn't mean they take scraps from the owners. Thank you sir, may I have another. No, not like that. Take the best possible deal and get back to work because the courts have sent a message. Ignoring that message would be foolhardy and cost the players both money and the loyalty of fans that so far have mostly backed the players.
The players lost and while owners shouldn't be doing any touchdown dances the signal sent by the 8th is clear.
It's probably over.