Today we arrive at another benchmark in the 2011 NFL Lockout as the owners and players will present arguments to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals. Given that it will take the court at least three or four weeks to issue an opinion, today is not remotely as important as that day will be. However, given the settlement negotiations that are purportedly going on, we'd all hope that eventual day never ends up mattering.
As it currently stands, neither side holds the leverage that a court victory would provide. If the owners win this case (including subsequent appeals), the lockout continues and football is gone indefinitely. Eventually it comes back but who knows when that would be. I still think a player victory would be the most likely court result that would get football back. However, it would seem to be best for business if the two sides could simply hammer out some kind of deal.
For now though, the two sides will argue in court over four basic issues:
1. Norris-LaGuardia Act: the legislation that prohibits federal courts from issuing injunctions in matters that "involve or grow out of a labor dispute."
2. Whether NFLPA's decertification was a sham.
3. Whether a collective bargaining relationship exists to enforce the non-statutory labor exemption.
4. Proper application of the four-factor test for injunctive relief (presented below for determining the stay):
(1) A strong showing of likely success on the merits
(2) Irreparable harm without a stay
(3) Players are not substantially harmed by a stay
(4) Public interest favors the stay
The level necessary to overturn Judge Nelson's decision will depend on what standard of review is in play: de novo vs. a more deferential standard. The lockout was kept in place pending this appeal so it's possible the court has already shown its hand as to the eventual result. In looking at the four-factor test, does the player's case hold water?