On Friday, the NFL and NFLPA made their way into the court room again, this time in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, to hear the owners' appeal of Judge Susan Nelson's original decision to lift the lockout.
The court gave both the lawyer representing the owners, Paul Clement, and the lawyer representing the players, Ted Olsen, a half hour to make their points. National Football Post's Andrew Brandt shares his overall impressions about the day and makes a prediction on what will happen.
He said that the owners' lawyer, Clement, argued that this is a dispute about labor and not an antitrust litigation, and that the players just can't "flip the switch" and go from labor to antitrust and say "Gotcha."
Paul Clement -- the attorney arguing for the Owners -- hammered home the point that this dispute has been and continues to be a labor dispute, not an antitrust litigation. He maintained the Owners' position that has not changed since March 11th: this union cannot and did not decertify within hours from engaging in a collective bargaining session on that day. Clement brought home the key language from his brief, which is that the Players can't "flip the light switch" and play "Gotcha!" in going from labor to antitrust instantaneously.
The lawyer for the players, Olson, argued that the players are not a union and can't be forced to be a union by the owners. Brandt said that the judges, especially Judge Colloton and Judge Benton, were more empathetic to the owners' argument.
Ted Olson -- the attorney arguing for the players -- continued to advance the Players' argument that the Players are not and do not have to be a union and that no once can force a group of employees to be a union. The two judges that have been favoring the Owners in the stay rulings -- Judges Colloton and Benson -- appeared to be empathetic to the Owners' argument. They asked many questions to Olson about the phrase "sufficiently distant in time and circumstances" that has been used in prior cases. The argument from the Owners is that the labor exemption for the Owners -- protecting them from antitrust law -- is lasting at least through now. Judge Benton tried to get Clement pinned down on a timeframe as to how long that would be; Clement, when pressed, said at least six months.
Brandt's overall impressions of the appeal are depressing. You know what that means.
He says that, unlike Judge Nelson's intense questioning of the Owners' attorney, it was the opposite in the 8th Circuit Court on Friday. It seems as though two of the three judges, Colloton and Benton, are siding with the owners. Those are the same two judges who granted the Owners their extended stay. The other judge, Judge Bye, was mostly silent throughout the day until closing arguments.
To me, based on Brandt's description of the day, it seems that Clement, the Owners' attorney, Clement has won.
The judges said that they will come to a decision "in due course." Judge Bye, who seems to support the players, said that the two sides "wouldn't be hurt" if they settled the dispute themselves in mediation.
Get ready for the lockout to extend even further.