Dear NFLPA: You Can't Win This War Through Litigation!
Whatever side you might favor in the current labor strife, there is one conclusion that is undeniable: the NFLPA is wasting its time trying to win the labor battle with the NFL through litigation.
In essence, the real purpose of the litigation was to get an injunction that would force the NFL to end the lockout. The NFLPA correctly assumed that the U.S. District Court in Minnesota (which has a history of favoring employees/unions) would grant that injunction. However, they incorrectly assumed that the injunction would then take effect pending the NFL's inevitable appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.
That's where they were wrong. While the District Court refused to stay the injunction pending the appeal, the Eight Circuit granted a stay. Thus, the NFLPA, in the short run, accomplished nothing.
Today, the Eighth Circuit will hear the parties' arguments on whether the injuction was properly granted. Two of the three judges on the panel have already expressed (in their ruling on the stay) strong doubts as to whether the injunction will stand. If they overrule the District Court, the NFLPA will have lost another crucial battle.
The ruling that follows today's hearing will, in all likelihood, end the NFLPA's effort to obtain a quick solution through injunctive relief. While they can still request a rehearing "en banc" (before all the judges of the Eighth Circuit) or even ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the matter, none of these options are (a) fast enough to ensure that the season would start on time if they prevail, or (b) likely to succeed.
Without an injunction, the litigation is a failure. It does the players no good to fight on in the hope of ultimately winning at trial and receiving a damage award, because such a result would not occur before this season is lost. The players need to play. Their careers are too short, and too many of them have failed to save enough money, to allow them to give up a full season. While a shutdown hurts the owners too, none of them risk losing their privileged lifestyles.
The NFLPA's only option is to return to the negotiating table and work out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement with the NFL. They have to accept that their leverage, though significant, is limited, and accept that they will not get everything they want.
And the moral of the story is: litigation should be the last resort, not Plan A.