A US appeals court granted the NFL’s request to put the lockout back into effect on Friday in a decision that came only hours after players across the league had returned to work.
The ruling is a temporary “administrative stay” to give the Eighth District Court of Appeals time to evaluate the league’s main request for a stay pending appeal on the injunction imposed earlier this week.
“The clubs have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mailed statement.
The lockout began seven weeks ago, after talks between the league and players over a new collective bargaining agreement broke down on March 11.
That led to a flurry of legal activity and on Monday, the players succeeded in gaining an injunction from a district court to halt the lockout.
Adding to the atmosphere of chaos surrounding the league, the court’s order was issued while the NFL was carrying out the second and third rounds of their annual player draft.
The first impact of the return to the lockout is to put the brakes on any potential free agency deals.
Players at the first round of Thursday’s nationally televised draft witnessed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell being booed by fans who chanted: “We want football.”
For a few hours on Friday, football did return to something close to normality.
Athletes worked out, chatted with coaches and picked up new playbooks as NFL teams began implementing rules for complying with a judge’s order.
“It just feels good to come home, so to speak, and get back to football,” Selvish Capers, who was among a dozen players at the Washington Redskins facilities, told the Washington Post. “It makes it easier to prepare for the season, being that our coaches are here and we have all the fields and equipment we need here.”
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a plaintiff in the players’ antitrust lawsuit against the owners, told CNBC he was confident there would be a 2011 season.
“There are too many players and too many owners that want it,” Brady said. “There needs to be compromise. There are going to be a lot of talks that take place, a lot of negotiating sessions, and hopefully a lot of compromise comes from that.”
The legal wrangling could take months before a resolution, experts have said. At issue between owners and players is how to divide the US$9 billion in revenue the US’ most popular sport takes in each year.