The ruling was the first victory for the NFL in the bitter labor fight. It came from a venue considered more conservative and favorable to businesses than the federal courts in Minnesota, where the collective bargaining system was established in the early 1990s and judges have generally favored players over the NFL.
Colloton and Benton were appointed by President George W. Bush. Bye was appointed by President Clinton.
The appeals court is expected to rule next week on the NFL’s request for a more permanent stay that would last through its appeal of the injunction. That process is expected to take 6-8 weeks.
Jim Quinn, the lead attorney for the players, downplayed Friday’s order.
“Routine grant of stay and totally expected,” he said. “The only surprise is that Judge Bye is so strongly against giving them even a tiny stay because the league obviously can’t show it is necessary.”
The order was just the latest in a dizzying week of legal wrangling. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson late Monday ordered the end of the lockout, calling it illegal, and she denied the NFL’s appeal on Wednesday night.
That led to a crazy couple of days where teams and players had no rules to guide them. On Friday, the NFL opened up team facilities to players for the first time in nearly two months.
And the players flocked to the facilities, exchanging smiles and high-fives with their teammates. Tony Romo and Jason Witten even did some sprints on a Dallas Cowboys practice field.
“From the players’ standpoint, I think everybody is pleased we’re not locked out anymore, especially the rookies,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said on CNBC, his first public comments about the dispute since he became one of the 10 plaintiffs in a federal antitrust lawsuit still pending against the NFL.
Players from Seattle to New York warmly greeted a little bit of normalcy in the most unusual offseason in league history, fully aware that it might not last very long.
“It’s exactly what I expected,” Buffalo Bills player rep George Wilson said in a text message to the AP after the stay was granted. “That’s why I advised my guys to stay put until we knew something more concrete.”
Attorneys for the players had argued against a stay of Nelson’s order, suggesting that the public and the players, with their short careers, are at far more risk when the business is stalled.
“Professional football is part of the fabric of American life,” the attorneys wrote. “Because the uncontroverted record of evidence shows that the 2011 season could be canceled or significantly curtailed without an injunction in place, a stay may deprive the public of professional football altogether.”
The players argued that granting any stay _ temporary or permanent _ inflicts irreparable harm by limiting their ability to workout at team facilities and preventing free agents from signing with teams.