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Court deals blow to players

The early advantage in the NFL's labor battle went to the players. Now it looks like the owners have the upper hand.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis voted 2-1 to allow the NFL to keep the lockout in place at least until June 3 when the court will hear the NFL's appeal of U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's order for the league to re-open for business.

The decision by the appellate court was no surprise since it also granted the NFL's initial request for a temporary stay, with the same two judges voting in favor of the league. Still, this was a huge victory for the owners, who had suffered a series of losses in court to the players.

The league and its players resumed their court-ordered federal mediation Monday after a hiatus of nearly a month, talking for eight hours in Minneapolis. ESPN reported the owners made a new proposal in hopes of ending the stalemate.

The players were prepared to fight the league as long as it took to get what they wanted, and after Judge Nelson's decision they had every reason to feel that way. But the appellate court's decisions have turned the tables. The players are on the defensive and have no choice but to strongly consider the league's latest proposal.

The owners shouldn't be celebrating too much, however, because the 2011 season is still in danger.

Monday's ruling should create a greater sense of urgency on both sides to get a new collective bargaining agreement done. The longer they wait the greater the chance regular-season games will be lost.

---Allen Wilson



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