Return of the NFL Lockout

Friday started out looking like a pretty good day for the NFL and football fans around the country. On Monday the lockout had ended when U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson issued an injunction deeming it illegal. And by the end of the week the player draft was in full swing. A sense of normalcy seemed to be returning and fans began looking forward to training camp.

Well, that lasted for about four more hours.

The NFL lockout is back.

The league announced the news late Friday, hours after an appeals court victory. League spokesman Greg Aiello tells The Associated Press that teams “have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately.”

Earlier Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis granted the NFL’s request for a temporary stay of the injunction lifting the 45-day lockout. Arguments will be heard on whether that order from a federal judge in Minnesota should be overturned altogether.

The three member panel from the 8th Circuit Court issued an “emergency stay” of the injunction, but it included a strongly worded dissent from one of the members, Judge Kermit Bye, (a Clinton appointee) who felt that the situation hardly qualified as an emergency.

”The NFL has not persuaded me this is the type of emergency situation which justifies the grant of a temporary stay of the district court’s order pending our decision on a motion for a stay itself,” Bye wrote. ”If we ultimately grant the motion for a stay, the NFL can easily re-establish its lockout.”

”The NFL claimed such operations would be ‘a complex process that requires time to coordinate,”’ Bye wrote. ”This contention is severely undermined by the fact that the NFL had, within a day of the district court’s order denying a stay, already planned post-injunction operations which would allow the players to have access to club and workout facilities, receive playbooks, meet with coaches and so forth.”

It may seem like football season is still a long way off, but in a typical year the newly drafted rookies are already reporting and putting in long days, studying playbooks, meeting with the coaching staff and just trying to get up to speed with their new team and the realities of being in the big leagues. Every week of delay impacts training schedules, conditioning and all the preparations that go into getting the teams ready for the pre-season games.

I’m still not hopeful of a permanent solution, and if we do get one it looks like it will come in the worst possible way – having the federal government step in and hold everyone’s hands. Much like many of the previous opinions you’ve seen in this space, I find it difficult to get overly emotional about the financial woes of millionaires fighting against billionaires, but I do want to see a little more indication that both the owners and players are taking the considerations of the fans into account here.