The NFL will allow players to return to their training facilities following Judge Susan Nelson’s decision to deny the NFL’s request for a stay of her ruling that the owners’ lockout of the players was in violation of antitrust law (Read Judge Nelson’s order).  Judge Nelson stated, “This court need not address the matter further because even under the lenient standard that the NFL proposes, the League still is not entitled to a stay pending appeal.”

Faced with the prospect of being in contempt, the NFL wisely yielded. The league issued a statement specifying rules by which players can return to the facilities while the NFL’s lawyers go to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking a stay of Judge Nelson’s order.

The NFL has informed its member teams that effective at 8 am this morning:

1)    Players will be permitted to use club facilities for physical examinations, rehabilitation and medical treatment as scheduled by the club.

2)    Clubs will be able to distribute playbooks, game film and other similar materials to players.

3)    Coaches may meet with players for the purpose of discussing any materials distributed pursuant to Paragraph 2 above, as well as the club’s off-season workout program, its schedule of mini-camps and organized team activities (“OTAs”).

4)    Voluntary off-season workout programs, including OTAs and classroom instruction may resume subject to the rules in Article XXXV of the 2006 collective bargaining agreement and Appendix L. Participating players will be paid $130 per day and such workouts will count toward any off-season workout bonus in the player’s contract.

5)    On days when no official off-season workouts or OTAs are scheduled, nothing shall prevent the club from permitting any player to use the club facility to work out on a voluntary basis provided:

              i) there is no participation or supervision from any coach, trainer, or other club personnel; and,

             ii) the club has first verified that the player has existing medical insurance in place.

 6)    Mandatory and voluntary mini-camps may begin subject to the rules in Article XXXVI of the 2006 collective bargaining agreement.

7)    The NFL office will promptly make arrangement to resume counseling, rehabilitation and treatment activities in connection with the substances of abuse and steroid programs. The league office will advise clubs as to when and on what basis testing will commence.

 8)    Players may participate in club-sponsored charitable and community-sponsored charitable and community relations events.

The NFL statement did not address the critical subjects of player transactions, including signings, player trades, terminations, and tryouts. The league states that it will distribute a comprehensive set of procedures governing such player transactions to all clubs, likely by sometime today. These procedures will include the timing for the commencement of the 2011 League Year, free agent signings and other player transactions.

The NFL’s issuance of its procedure plan will be an interesting development as the league is still faced with a crucial legal dilemma. The NFLPA is currently decertified. There is currently no players’ representative for the NFL to collectively bargain with.  Thus, any changes that the league institutes could be subject to anti-trust challenge since the labor exemption cannot be used as a protective mechanism in a non-collective bargaining situation.

Stay tuned.

Email this postTweet this postLike this postShare this post on LinkedIn
Photo of Gregg E. Clifton Gregg E. Clifton

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in…

Gregg E. Clifton is a Principal in the Phoenix, Arizona, office of Jackson Lewis P.C. He is Co-Leader of the Collegiate and Professional Sports Practice Group and serves as the editor of the firm’s sports law blog.

Mr. Clifton has extensive experience in the collegiate and professional sports world. He has advised numerous professional franchises on general labor and employment issues, including Title III ADA regulatory compliance and wage and hour issues. He serves as lead counsel for several Major League Baseball teams in their salary arbitration matters and has represented NCAA and NAIA collegiate clients regarding rules compliance, investigatory matters and in disciplinary hearings. In addition, he has handled Title IX investigations and compliance issues for NCAA and NAIA member institutions. Mr. Clifton has also worked extensively in the area of agent regulation and enforcement in professional and college sports and regularly provides counsel on issues relating to NCAA and NAIA amateurism issues and athlete eligibility questions. He has also served as an expert witness in matters involving sports agents’ work and responsibilities, as well as athlete compensation issues.

Prior to joining Jackson Lewis, he spent six years as Chief Operating Officer and Vice President of Team Sports for Gaylord Sports Management. He also served as President of the Athlete and Entertainment Division for famed sports attorney Bob Woolf’s firm, Woolf Associates, in Boston.

Mr. Clifton began his career as an Associate at Jackson Lewis where he focused his practice on traditional labor law. He continues to counsel clients in the areas of collective bargaining negotiations, representation cases, arbitrations and National Labor Relations Board matters.

Mr. Clifton frequently serves as an expert speaker to law schools, including Harvard University, Boston College, Hofstra University and Arizona State University, and bar associations regarding sports law issues, including agent regulation and salary arbitration. He is also often cited as an expert source in national news media for his commentary and opinion on legal issues in sports.