Almost immediately after the NFLPA filed decertification papers, the expected antitrust lawsuit was filed by a group of 10 players, including plenty of NFL stars. Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and others filed the paperwork in Minnesota on Friday, taking the battle from the bargaining table to the courtroom. Additionally, the 10 players filed an injunction to block a lockout, though the planned lockout went into affect at midnight on Friday night.
The antitrust lawsuit attacks the foundation of the NFL, claiming the NFL Draft, salary cap and free agency rules all break antitrust laws. Though it will take some time for the courts to sort it all out, the stakes are incredibly high, both in a punitive sense and an operating sense.
Invoking the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust statute from 1890 that limits monopolies and restrictions on commerce, the players are seeking triple the amount of damages they’ve incurred. That means the stakes could be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Should the players win, the NFL would owe a large amount of money in damages. More importantly, though, if the league’s policies are in violation of antitrust statues, the league would be forced to alter how it operates. A successful challenge could be more damaging to owners than losing money at the bargaining table in a new revenue sharing plan.
Stay tuned to our NFL lockout StoryStream for the latest as we break down what this all means and whether the 2011 season is in jeopardy.