You can just feel all the lockout weary eyes focused on St. Louis this morning – Searching for any signs from the players or from the owners side that might give us the good news we’ve all been waiting for the past 84 days.
But inside the En Banc Courtroom and outside the Thomas F. Eagleton Courthouse many voices were heard.
Representing the owners during this trial was Paul D. Clement, former 43rd Solicitor General of the U.S. and current legal professor at Georgetown University. He is also a partner at Brancoft PLLC in Washington, D.C.
Mr. Clement’s overwhelming take home points throughout most of his alotted 30 minutes and during his post-courtroom press conference were:
- This a labor dispute. This is not an anti-trust dispute. Clement believes the lockout acts as a “tool” which will help bring about a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
A lockout, by its nature, doesn’t really make any economic sense unless it’s designed to be a labor law tool to get people to reach a collective bargaining agreement.
The fastest way to get football back on the field is to get extraneous anti-trust law considerations out of this and get back to the bargaining table.
- The Norris-LaGuardia Act is broad and is not limited to organized unions. The NGA would prevent the court from ordering the league to end the lockout.
Obviously everyone can make their own judgement but I think the problem with the argument on the other side is that it sort of assumes that the union is gone forever.
- The non-statutory labor exemption should apply for the league at least one business cycle. In case, being one year.
That does not mean that you would have a lockout that would last a year. It simply means there would be no subtenant anti-trust liability for a year.
Clement and the owners were not only trying to convince the three-judge panel of the District court’s misstep in issuing the injunction but they were also making an attempt to get the anti-trust law suit thrown out.
I found Mr. Clement to be very quick on his toes when the judges asked him various questions. He was very well prepared and delivered his argumentsÂ clearly and convincingly. He came across as if he was genuinely invested in the owners plight. I sensed sincere conviction from the tone of his voice. He truly believed in each word he spoke.
Representing the players voices was Theodore B. Olson, Paul Clement’s predecessor as the 42nd Solicitor General of the U. S. Olson is a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, also based in Washington, D.C.
- The players are not subject to labor laws because the union decertified in March. Since they are no longer a functioning labor union they have the right to pursue an anti-trust law suit. And under that same assumption, the owners are in violation of anti-trust laws when they locked out the players.
The league desperately wants these players to be part of a union so that they can continue to violate the antitrust laws.
The players are perfectly happy to be protected by the antitrust laws.
- It was the NFL that started all this. Not the players.
I want to remind everybody that the NFL cancelled the CBA they negotiated and entered into. They prematurely and unilaterally cancelled the CBA. And then they unilaterally called a lockout stopping football in its tracks. The players didn’t do that, the NFL did that.
Mr. Olson didn’t seem to have the same sort of energy as his counterpart did. I have no doubt he came well versed in all the cases yet the delivery of his points weren’t as sharp. I dare say his argument was a bit disorganized? Clement’s statements were easier to follow.
Current NFL players also had comments after the hearing.
- St. Louis Rams OT and player representative, Adam Goldberg:
Really our only purpose here today was to show that it’s important to us and to represent our players. To show both the court and the public that it’s important to us and that we want to get back to work. We want to play and we want to get back to work doing what it is what we’re trained to do and to put out a great product on Sundays.
- Minnesota Vikings DE Brian Robison:
As Adam said I think it’s something that every guy in the league thinks it’s important that we get back to work. That we get an injunction on this lockout and try to play a game that we love.
I think it’s just showing you that the players are coming together as a unit. We’re going to stick this thing out and hopefully get things done right.
No mention of revenues or 18-game schedules. They just want to get back to their jobs. They just both seemed very frustrated.
Also, in attendance in the courtroom were the following:
Seattle Seahawks G Chester Pitts, Carolina Panthers WR Steve Smith and LB Jon Beason, Jacksonville Jaguars OT Jordan Black, Tennessee Titan G Jake Scott, St. Louis Rams S Craig Dahl, Atlanta Falcons K Matt Bryant and OL Tyson Clabo, Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick, New York Giants DE Osi Umenyiora, New York Jets RB Tony Richardson and G Brandon Moore, Green Bay Packers DT Cullen Jenkins, and most represented were the Kansas City Chiefs. Their players included C Rudy Niswanger, S Jon Mcgraw, LB Andy Studebaker, and G Brian Waters.
NFL Trade Association representative, George Atallah:
We’re here today to try to lift the lockout so players can play football. At the same time that doesn’t mean that negotiations and settlement negotiations couldn’t continue.
You saw that over the the past couple of days (referring to the talks in Chicago). That’s a false choice to think that one can happen over the other.
We’re here and we pledged, and the players pledged to do every thing they can do play.
I likened Mr. Atallah’s to the role of a handler. He was showing players where to go, when to speak and when it was time to go, he sternly ushered them away from the media. He was all business today.
And finally Judge Kermit E. Bye:
We will take this case and render a decision in due course.
We won’t, I might also say, be all that hurt that you’re leaving us out if you should go out and settle the case. But that’s up to you.
But we will keep with our business and if that ends up with a decision, that’s probably something both sides are not going to like but at least it will be a decision.
Being the lone dissenting voice in the stay decision I had fully expected him to let loose on Paul Clement. But Judge Bye didn’t say A WORD throughout 99% of the hearing. In fact, even when he did speak he was quite calm. That was puzzling until after I spoke to Eighth Circuit Court Clerk, Michael Gans.
Mr. Gans said each judge has their own unique style at the bench. Judge Bye’s laid back demeanor today was typical. Judges Colloton and Benton are known to be more active.
When I asked when we could expect a ruling from the judges he said it would be two weeks at the earliest. But basically, the judges will let us know when they are ready.
Have you noticed that there was one very important voice missing from today?
OUR VOICES – The voices of the fans. No one was here to speak on our behalf.
If you had the opportunity to speak your mind to Judges Colloton, Benton, and Bye, what would you say? What would you tell both sides of case?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below. Let your voice be heard!