A federal judge has already ruled that the NFL owner’s lockout of the players is illegal, and yet there is no football. The fans are caught in the middle of this lengthy squabble with no end in sight. Is there anything the fans can do? Perhaps…
The Sports Fans Coalition is a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to giving the fans a voice, and they are angling to get the fans an actual voice in the lockout by filing an amicus brief today, May 9th, asking the appellate court to uphold the trial order that told the NFL owners to end the lockout. An amicus brief is defined as follows:
Literally, friend of the court. A person with strong interest in or views on the subject matter of an action, but not a party to the action, may petition the court for permission to file a brief, ostensibly on behalf of a party but actually to suggest a rationale consistent with its own views. Such amicus curiae briefs are commonly filed in appeals concerning matters of a broad public interest; e.g., civil rights cases. They may be filed by private persons or the government. In appeals to the U.S. courts of appeals, an amicus brief may be filed only if accompanied by written consent of all parties, or by leave of court granted on motion or at the request of the court, except that consent or leave shall not be required when the brief is presented by the United States or an officer or agency thereof.
Penn State University Sports Law Professor Steve Ross is the main author of the brief, and he makes it a point to say that they are not siding with the players on how to divide revenues, but to state that the lockout should not be allowed to continue. Ross says;
“An agreement among the 32 NFL owners not to operate is not only a blatant restraint of trade in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act, but is also irreparably harmful to sports fans,” Ross said. “Few would defend the view that if grocery store workers decertified, supermarket chains should be able to agree among themselves to shut down unless workers granted them concessions.”
I’m not entirely sure what legal ramifications this action will bring. For all I know the Court of Appeals may not even consider the brief, but DeMaurice Smith, the Executive Director of the National Football League Players Association, thinks it a “huge” deal.
“Fans and players are now formally standing together and asking NFL ownership not to lock us out. The fact that the nation’s biggest fan advocacy group is willing to support the players in our legal case is huge. Clearly, our fans and our players just want football this fall.”
June 3rd is the day the case will be heard in front of the in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. SportsFans.org started a petition accessed through SaveNextSeason.com, that fans can sign to show their displeasure in the labor mess. Last month they sent a letter to both DeMaurice Smith and to Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League. In the letter they pointed out;
As fans and taxpayers, we have invested over $6.5 billion around the country on NFL stadiums, in addition to the billions we have spent on tickets and NFL merchandise. We have transformed our urban centers with the promise that new stadiums would serve as an economic boon to the surrounding community. A work stoppage would be devastating to many cities, including local workers and businesses.
Roger Goodell was loudly and emphatically booed at the NFL Draft. Chants of ‘we want football’ rang through Radio City Music Hall, and his response was, “I hear you”. OK. Hearing the fans and doing something about it are two different things. Give us our damn football.
The days following the NFL Draft should have been filled with hundreds of undrafted rookie free agents signing contracts with NFL teams. Then hundreds others should have been invited to participate in rookie mini-camps on a try out basis, but the lockout killed all that. Free agency is still on hold, as are the actual rules that the 2011 season (if there is a season) will be played under. Those rules will decide the fate of a number of potential free agents.
The owners and players have been preparing for this for some time now, but the lockout is starting to feel very real for the fans. If the players aren’t allowed to get back to work after the June 3rd court date, I fear the season could be lost.