As the 2011 NFL draft opened on Thursday night, perhaps the biggest story was the fact that Commissioner Roger Goodell was showered with boos from the frustrated NFL fans in attendance.
For the first time, the group that has been harmed most by the lockout, the fans, had an opportunity to voice their displeasure with Goodell and the owners over what has become a rather ridiculous charade.
The NFL Owners (referred to as the NFL from hereon out) have lost three court battles to the NFLPA.
First, there was the television deal that the NFL entered into which had lockout insurance. Not only was this was a blatant violation of the CBA between the NFL and the NFLPA, but it also showed that from a very early point, the NFL had no intent of resolving this matter before the regular season began.
Then, the NFLPA filed for an injunction to stop the NFL from locking the players out. In an 89 page decision, Judge Susan Richard Nelson blasted the NFL for the way it handled the situation and ruled that the NFLPA was likely to win at trial on the merits of the case.
This meant they would win the real argument about whether or not the lockout was legal. As such, she ruled that the NFL would be enjoined from locking out the players.
The following day, the NFL made statements that they would need a few days to figure out how to handle the situation and told teams not to allow players into their weight rooms.
At this point, I should note that I am a practicing attorney, and though I do not practice labor law, I am familiar with injunctions, the injunction process and what the Judge's ruling meant.
In my opinion, the NFL was already in violation of a court order when it told teams to keep players out of their weight rooms.
Their stance that they needed time to figure out how to handle the situation has no legal grounds. Had Judge Nelson wanted, she could have stayed the injunction without the NFL ever filing their motion for a stay. The fact that she did not means that the injunction was valid law from the time the opinion was entered.
Keeping players out of the weight rooms was a tactic that is part of the lockout. The injunction was based in the fact that the NFL had locked its players out. Once that opinion was entered, the NFL no longer had the right to do this.
Then, the NFL lost for a THIRD time in court when Judge Nelson denied their request for a stay. When this occurred, it became even clearer that her ruling would stand and that the injunction was still good law. The injunction began when she ruled on Tuesday and has not stopped.
As a fan of the Oakland Raiders, I fully expected Al Davis to make a trade during the draft in order to either get back into the first round (the Raiders were the only team without a first round pick this year) or else to trade to the top of the second round.
Davis made no trade on the first day, so I assumed a trade on day two was much more likely. I thought that the NFL would likely start allowing player transactions starting on Friday, giving the Raiders more ammo to trade with.
However, I was shocked to learn on Friday morning that the NFL has decided not to allow player trades at all during the draft.
When the NFL came out today and stated that there would be no player transactions until next week, they were doing so in violation of a court order.
The reason that the trades are not allowed is so that the NFL can work out what rules will be applied. Again, this is not a valid legal reason for ignoring an injunction.
The NFL was fully aware that this was a possibility and should have prepared for it. The fact that they had not prepared rules for transactions by this point shows nothing more than a lack of preparation on the part of the NFL owners who have bungled this entire CBA from the get go.
The courts have ruled against the NFL three separate times now. Last night, the fans gave their ruling against Goodell and the NFL. Now, despite all of this, the NFL is still going out of their way to continue their stubborn habit of ignoring facts and reality in order to try and force things to go their way.
Here is to hoping that Judge Neslon does not stand for such a blatant violation of her court order.