Court Sides With NFL in Lockout

Judges on the 8th Circuit further endanger the prospect of an intact football season this year

NFL players — and, potentially, fans and television networks — received some bad news from the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday.

With the players moving the fight over a new collective bargaining deal to the courtroom, the court decided that the owner-imposed lockout can remain in place until it's determined if the lockout is legal, Sports Illustrated reports.

The 2-1 decision means that the lockout could stand until at least the first week of June.

Judges ruled that the NFL "likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay."

The court also criticized U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who earlied ruled that the lockout should be lifted.

"In sum, we have serious doubts that the district court had jurisdiction to enjoin the league's lockout," the court said of Nelson's decision, "and accordingly conclude that the league has made a strong showing that it is likely to succeed on the merits."

As reported earlier, the current legal tussle between NFL players and team owners could have serious financial repercussions for the media outlets carrying — or hoping to carry — NFL games this season. With billions of advertising dollars in play, a shortened or, worst case, completely canceled season would put a serious dent in the networks' coffers.

Which might be why the networks seem to be doing their best to will the dispute away. At NBC's schedule unveiling on Sunday, NBC head Robert Greenblatt announced that "Sunday Night Football" remains on the slate and that the network is "feeling pretty optimistic that football will be there."

NBC, ESPN, FOX and CBS, meanwhile, went ahead and announced their preseason schedules in April, with the first game kicking off on August 7 with the Hall of Fame Game.

That is, if the players and owners manage not to drop the ball and get their dispute settled before then.