The stay on Judge Susan Nelson’s decision to end the NFL lockout could be lifted as early as tomorrow. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to review the case again on Monday, according a press statement released when the three-member panel decided to postpone judgement last week.
There are three possible courses of action the appellate court could take. One would be ending the stay on Nelson’s decision, which would effectively rule that the lockout is causing “irreparable harm” to players’ careers and deem it a violation of labor laws. The lockout would be lifted, stadiums and training facilities would be reopened, and free agency would begin as normal.
Another outcome could involve upholding the stay on Nelson’s decision, effectively stating that there is no pressing need to open NFL doors prior to the June 3rd start date of the owners’ appeal case. This – which many see as the most likely scenario – would keep the lockout in effect until a final ruling can be made in the case, no earlier than late June and possibly as far into the summer as August. If this were to happen, fans hoping for a full NFL season in 2011 should begin praying for movement in the negotiation room, because we will be past the point of no return for a timely result in court.
The final option, for the 8th Circuit Court, is to do nothing at all. By simply ignoring the issue of the stay completely, the court will essentially allow the lockout to continue until June 3rd without having to risk public outcry or possible death threats for “saying no to football.” From then on, it will play out exactly like option two.
As with every other development so far in this case, it seems the best option for fans, players, and owners is a successful bargaining-room compromise. But DeMaurice Smith and the owners’ high-powered attorneys – who will not meet again until at least next week – seem more concerned with winning right now than they do with getting it done. Unless something forces them to change their minds soon, each passing day will bring us closer to a very depressing September.