The boys of the gridiron have taken their fight to court. A group of National Football League players was asking a judge Wednesday to issue a preliminary injunction on the lockout the owners imposed after talks on a new collective bargaining agreement broke off three weeks ago, the Associated Press reported.
The court appearance is the first round between the NFL and its locked-out players in their legal fight over the future of the $9 billion business and the 2011 season.
As of press time, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson had not ruled on the injunction. She could side with the players and grant the injunction, putting pro football back in business. Or she could side with the owners and either deny the injunction or wait to decide until the Labor Relations Board rules on the league's argument that decertification of the players' union was an improper bargaining ploy.
The winner would have fresh leverage whenever talks on a new collective bargaining agreement resume. Of course, whatever Nelson decides will almost surely go to appeal.
Does it matter? Sure, tens of millions of dollars are at stake, but the season, teams and players' futures hang in the balance.
Jonathan Rubin, a Washington trial attorney and antitrust expert, said: "Ultimately both parties are better off sticking to the business of football, and both parties know that somewhere deep down and they're going to have to get to a point where there's diminishing returns to continuing litigation."
At stake are free agency agreements, salary caps, the league's "competitive balance" ... and fans' loyalty.
In a business that measures its salaries and profits with multiple zeros in the numbers, Michigan and its union problems pale in comparison to the NFL's collective bargaining. This is big business and more than just a game.
As for court, Nelson should issue an injunction. The players should play, the owners should make a deal. No one is solving anything by going for touchdowns in a courtroom, and the victim ultimately will be the football fan.