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2011 NFL Lockout: Tom Brady, et. al VS the NFL

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - MARCH 03:  A view of Sun Life Stadium behind a locked gate as the NFL lockout looms on March 3, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - MARCH 03: A view of Sun Life Stadium behind a locked gate as the NFL lockout looms on March 3, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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As we know the the NFLPA disbanded as a union on Friday and is reconstituting itself as a trade assocation. Immediately following that action several NFL players and one rookie sued in federal court to get an injunction to stop several practices which they felt were anti-competitive based on the Sherman anti-trust law and other statutes.

The lawsuit identifies the Plaintiffs, and what class they belong to (for class action purposes),and the defendants by name. It then relates relevant history regarding the NFL and it's actions with the players, and explains how the actions taken by the NFL hurt the players. It then lists 5 counts of anti-trust action taken by the NFL, and at the end asks the court for several things.

In summary, here are the actions they're asking the court to pursue. 

1.) An injunction to stop the NFL lockout, plus damages

2..) An injunction to stop the draft, plus damages. (This would be this year's draft they're wanting to stop since there's no draft planned for next year and Von Miller would have no legal standing as a plaintiff for the rookies next season). 

3.) An injunction to stop the use of the franchise tag, plus damages

3.) An injunction to stop the use of restricted free agency

4.) An injunction to stop use of the salary cap, plus damages. 

5.) An injunction to force the owners to continue to pay the NFL salaries.


6.) Enjoining the NFL from agreeing to deprive players of the ability to work, or negotiate the terms of employment

7.) Awarding the Plaintiffs and class members treble damages.

8.) Awarding Plaintiffs the damages they sustained as a result of the lockout

9.) Awarding damages from any loss of money from intereference with contracts (i.e. franchise tag, restricted free agency)

10.) Force the owners to pay the salaries of the players are allow the players to nullilfy those contracts.

11.) Declaring that the NFL has waived any right to assert antitrust labor exemption based on the claim that the NFLPA decertification is a sham.

This is basically trying to prevent the owners from proceeding with a lockout under the assumption that the NFLPA's "trade association" is the same entity as the union and therefore can be treated as such. 

12.) Awarding costs and attorney fees for the players

"Pursuant to Rule 38 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Plaintiffs demand a trial by jury."



Here's the relevant quotes from the lawsuit for each count of anti-trust.


Count I
118. The "lockout constitutes an agreement among competitors to eliminate competition for the services of major league professional football players in the United States and to refuse to pay contractually-wed compensation to players currently under contract with the NFL Defendants for the 2011 season and beyond, in violation of Section 1 of the Sherman Act.


Count 2
126. The imposition of the Draft with "Entering Player Pool" is an anticompetitive, horizontal agreement between competing NFl teams, which allocates the right to negotiate with and sign rookie professional football players and fixes their wages. The Draft with "Entering Player Pool" is per se unlawful


Count 3
132. The NFL Defendants' imposition of restrictions on competition for player services, such as the Salary Cap, the "Franchise Player" restriction, the "Transition Player" restriction, or other restrictions on player free agency, are part of an overall combination and conspiracy by the NFL Defendants to suppress competition in the Untied States for the services of major league professional football players. These restrictions are intended to fix prices and eliminate competition in a manner that is per se unlawful under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. 


Count 4
138. Plaintiffs and the Under-Contract Subclass include players who, as of March 4, 2011, are under contract to play professional football for an NFL team in what would have been the 2011 NFL season and thereafter. Pursuant to the "lockout", the NFL teams will prevent members of the Under-Contract Subclass from working as professional football players and will refuse to pay them the compensation mandated by their existing contracts. The aforesaid conduct violates the individual state contract laws, which apply to these contracts. 


Count 5
143. By jointly conspiring and agreeing to impose a "lockout", each of the NFL Defendants intentionally interfered with the rights of Plaintiffs manning, Jackson, Vrabel, Mankins, Leber, and Miller and Free Agent Subclass and Rookie Sublcass members to enter into prospective contracts with NFL teams. Absent these restrictions, these Plaintiffs and subclass members, in reasonable probability, would have entered into contracts with NFL teams. 


You can read the text of the entire lawsuit if you'd like. (opens in a pdf file)


As a side note the NFL has retained some outside counsel to fight the players and they sent out a press release naming their lawyers.


The NFL has retained attorneys DAVID BOIES, founder and chairman of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, and PAUL CLEMENT, head of law firm King & Spalding's appellate practice and the former United States Solicitor General, to join GREGG LEVY of Covington & Burling in representing the league in the antitrust litigation filed yesterday by the NFL Players Association.

Last November, Boies won a $1.3 billion copyright infringement verdict for Oracle -- the largest verdict of its kind in history. Boies is currently co-leading a landmark civil rights case involving the Constitutional protection of same-sex marriage. He is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades including Time magazine's "Lawyer of the Year" and runner-up for "Person of the Year" in 2000 for his work in Bush v. Gore.

Clement served as the 43rd Solicitor General of the United States from June 2005 until June 2008.  In all, he spent seven years in the Office of the Solicitor General - the longest period of continuous service by a Solicitor General since the 1800s -- and argued more than 50 cases before the United States Supreme Court. Last year, he was recognized as a finalist for the Public Justice Foundation's 2010 Trial Lawyer of the Year award. 

Levy has served as the principal outside counsel for the NFL for more than 15 years and has had a lead role in each of the league's major trial and appellate victories in that time, including the landmark Supreme Court decision Brown v. Pro-Football, Inc. He is recognized as one of the top sports and antitrust lawyers in the country. Covington has represented the league for more than 50 ye