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Thursday, April 28, 2011
New Sports Illustrated Column: Judge Nelson Denies NFL Stay. What's Next?

Judge Susan Nelson. Do NFL owners now regret Judge David Doty's removal?

Judge Nelson says no stay for NFL, so the NFL is -- quite reluctantly and perhaps temporarily -- back in business. Here's my new SI 10-point column on what that means for the league and players.  Here's an excerpt:
4. So what would you recommend the NFL do?

First, NFL teams should re-open business without any physical or other obstructions to players. A court has told the league to resume operations. It should do just that and not pull any gimmicks. It may be an awkward time for teams and players, but only if they let it be.

Second, the NFL should -- for the time being -- not employ a salary cap, meaning teams should be able to sign free agents without restriction. Teams would still be deterred in their spending because a new CBA will eventually be reached and it will contain a salary cap -- no team wants to be way over the cap when the new CBA is put in place.

Third, teams should remove franchise tag designations and other restrictions on players' free agency rights. History should convince the league of this point: the NFL has lost antitrust cases involving unilaterally imposed restrictions on movement of free agents between teams. Judge Nelson notably stipulated that teams are not obligated to sign free agents. In one respect, that stipulation benefits teams since they cannot be alleged to have engaged in a group boycott under federal antitrust law by not signing free agents. But as a matter of practice, the stipulation may not prove meaningful: teams may not be legally obligated to sign free agents, but if they don't, their competitors will.  . . .


Are there rules the NFL could legally implement (i.e. that should survive antitrust scrutiny) that would nevertheless be intolerable to players and thus incentivize them to return to the negotiating table? And maybe restore some of the leverage the owners have lost from these court decisions?

I'm thinking of removing salary minimums (sign a long snapper for $40K), mandatory and repetitive drug testing (including for human growth hormone), required participation in off-season 40 hr/wk meetings and film study, etc.?

Blogger Ryan Early -- 4/28/2011 10:48 AM  

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