After hearing that the Judge had ruled in favor of the players, I posted "Lockout lifted, what next?". Since that time, I have been able to read the judge's (sic) ruling. I began with optimism that this sorry chapter in NFL negotiations would be quickly concluded through modification of the old agreement. After reading the complete opinion, I believe that the ruling, if it stands, will be DISASTEROUS to football as we know it, and the league will be forced to postpone or even cancel the draft. No trades, no nuttin'!
Football presently stands in a unique place as a sports fanchise under the law, Through its previous agreements, football has maintained a degree of team "ownership" of star players (restricted free agency, designation of a franchise player, etc) that no longer exists in other sports (Carmelo Anthony, for example). It is this unique standing that has helped the NFL become so popular. Knowing that Payton Manning would remain a Colt breeds fan loyalty to a team and its players. This ruling will send the NFL down the same road as baseball and basketball. Unrestricted free agency for all, and a virtual collapse of league balance.
As a fan, before I read the ruling, I was gladdened to believe that, at least for now, there would be "business as usual" and with the owner's nose bloodied, an agreement would be reached. However, the "opinion" has placed the parties in the worst possible position. Not only can they not conduct "business as usual" they cannot even effectively negotiate a resolution.
The judge ruled that the player's legitimately "de-certified" their union, and that it no longer exists. This ruling largely suspends the legal protection from anti-trust complaints that the owners would have enjoyed under law to continue "business as usual" as a part of on-going labor negotiations. Even though it will greatly disappoint fans, the owner's cannot move forward with an action (the draft) that certainly violates anti-trust law at the expense of triple damages.
The judge could have avoided this disaster by ordering the league to conduct "business as usual" thus giving the owners some protection under the law. Instead, she went out of her way to say that she was specifically not saying that, and the owners are provided no protection under the law. The Player's association is now a trade association.
The owners have been placed in a "really, really, dammed if you do, dammed if you don't"situation. In a nutshell, I believe that as I write this, the owners are meeting with their attorneys to announce a delay of the draft. Without some other legal relief, they have no choice. They will "hunker down" and do as little as possible for the short term. No draft, - 'nuttin
Long term, this ruling has given the players all of the cards and will send any subsequent "bargaining" down the path to unrestricted free agency. This probably isn't what the players really intended by their actions, but the Peyton Mannings of the league will use this as an opportunity to bleed "the goose that laid the golden egg" and ultimately to their own long-term detriment, and certainly to the fans detriment.
Bottom line: Although optimism abounds, the fans are in a much worse place than before this ruling. Much, much worse.You might see Manning in a Faiders uniform when the league resumes play.