Representatives for NFL, players to present oral arguments at appeals hearing Friday

After three days of secret labor negotiations, the NFL and its players square off in a St. Louis courtroom Friday when the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will consider whether to let the lockout stand.

Both sides will present oral arguments, though the three-judge panel is unlikely to render a decision for at least two weeks. In a preliminary decision May 17, however, those judges indicated they are leaning toward allowing the owners to keep the lockout in place.

“If the players can’t get rid of the lockout, which is what this litigation is all about, then time is working against them and there will be pressure for them to back down,” said labor expert William B. Gould IV, a Stanford law professor.

“The owners don’t have to have the games now, but the players do.”


Owners and players are fighting over how to divide the NFL’s annual $9 billion in revenues. That has led to the league’s first labor interruption since the 1987 strike.

In a Chicago suburb this week, representatives from both sides — including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former union head DeMaurice Smith — met before a mediator, U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, to resume negotiations. Both sides said they would honor a court-ordered confidentiality agreement on the talks.

Without further explanation, Boylan on Thursday canceled mediation sessions that were scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday of next week in Minneapolis.