A group of NFL players, including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, are asking a federal judge in Minneapolis to issue a preliminary injunction that would force team owners to lift the lockout that began nearly four weeks ago. A glance at the details:
Q:What's at stake?
A: A lot. It's the first round of a legal fight that could be long, difficult and damaging to both sides. Whichever side wins the first argument will instantly have their bargaining power enhanced should negotiations resume.
"Preliminary injunctions are a delicate question because frequently, by granting the preliminary injunction, you significantly affect what the ultimate outcome will be,'' said David Allen Larson, professor of labor and employment law at Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul, Minn. "You change the dynamic sometimes in such a dramatic way.''
Q: What is an injunction?
A: It is a court order compelling a person or group to stop doing something. In this case, the players are asking the judge to order the owners to stop the lockout imposed after discussions on a new collective bargaining agreement broke off. Exactly what happens if the players are successful is unclear, though such an order would almost surely be appealed. Owners would in theory have to draw up new rules, possibly leaning on guidelines from 2010's salary capless season. And if the owners work together to issue new rules, the players could in theory level fresh antitrust claims.
Q:Who will be making the ruling?
A: U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who was appointed about four months ago. Judge David Doty has presided over most of the courtroom dealings between the owners and players for the last two decades, ruling in favor of the players on occasions. But because this is a new case, it was randomly assigned and landed in Nelson's court. Nelson could have chosen to pass it on to Doty, and still may, but so far has declined to do so. She has a history of high profile cases as a lawyer, including serving on the team that won a $7 billion award for the state of Minnesota against the tobacco industry in 1988.
Q: When will Nelson issue a ruling?
A: It is highly unlikely she will rule from the bench on Wednesday, likely issuing her decision later. She could side with the players and issue the injunction, she could side with the owners and deny one, or she could decide to wait until the National Labor Relations Board rules on an unfair labor practice charge against the now-dissolved players' union. That charge alleges the players failed to negotiate in good faith.
"If the players lose it, and the judge says that yes the lockout can continue, then it won't be long before these multimillion-dollar players begin to feel a very significant impact that they are not being paid for each game that they miss,'' Larson said. "If that starts to happen, then ... I think there's a rush to settlement.''
Still, any decision Nelson makes can be appealed by either side.
Q:What is the key argument for the players?
A:The players will argue that keeping the lockout in place is causing irreparable harm to them and their livelihoods.
Q: What is the key argument for the owners?
A:The owners say that the court should not be considering this matter right now, not while they've taken their allegation that the players' union decertifying was a sham to the National Labor Relations Board.
Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti contributed to this report.