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NFL lockout back on, as owners win ruling from appeals court

By the CNN Wire Staff
Ryan Mundy of the Pittsburgh Steelers reports to the team's training facility on Friday, before the court ruling was announced.
Ryan Mundy of the Pittsburgh Steelers reports to the team's training facility on Friday, before the court ruling was announced.
  • Two judges backed the temporary stay, while one dissented
  • A federal appeals court grants a temporary stay, meaning the NFL lockout can resume
  • On Monday, a lower court judge had ruled NFL owners couldn't lock out their players
  • The legal wrangling threatens the scheduled September start of the NFL season

(CNN) -- A federal appeals court on Friday granted a temporary stay of an April 25 lower court order that had ruled that National Football League owners could not lock out their players.

The 2-1 ruling by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis allows NFL owners to again suspend football operations, as they seek to revise the current system and negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement with the league's players.

"We are back to a lockout," said 8th Circuit court clerk Michael Gans, who confirmed the court's ruling.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said clubs were notified of the ruling Friday night.

"As a result, the clubs have been told that the prior lockout rules are reinstated effective immediately," he said.

The football league's owners imposed a lockout last month, after talks aimed at forging a new agreement broke down and the players officially disbanded their union.

Nine players -- including star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning -- instigated a lawsuit filed against the owners, saying the owners had no legal right to impose a work stoppage that threatens the scheduled September 8 start of the upcoming season.

The players also want a future trial to determine if the NFL lockout is in violation of federal antitrust laws.

In her ruling Monday, U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson said that the decision by the players to disband their union meant the case no longer came under federal labor law that prohibits injunctions, as claimed by the owners.

The NFL then asked the federal appeals court in St. Louis to lift Nelson's ruling. That led to Friday's announcement, which became public during the second round of the NFL Draft -- the last element covered under the previous agreement between the two sides.

Appeals court judges Duane Benton and Steven Colloton voted for the temporary stay, writing that they wanted to "give the court sufficient opportunity to consider the merits of the motion for a stay pending appeal."

The lone dissenting judge, Kermit Bye, said that the temporary stay shouldn't be granted -- arguing unsuccessfully that such an order should apply only to an "emergency situation."

If games don't start on time late this summer, it would be the first NFL work stoppage since 1987. This comes after several months already of testy labor and legal maneuvering that has left many fans confused about how arguably America's most popular sports league lacks enough money to satisfy everyone.

The heart of the issue between the players and the owners is how to divide the league's $9 billion in revenue.

Right now, NFL owners take $1 billion off the top of that revenue stream. After that, the players get about 60%.

The owners say that the current labor deal doesn't take into account the rising costs related to building stadiums and promoting the game. The players argue that the league has not sufficiently opened up its books to prove this.

In addition, the owners also want to increase the season by two games, which the players are against because it might increase the risk of injuries.

While star players earn millions of dollars each year, the median NFL salary is $790,000 and the average career lasts about four years.

CNN's Justin Lear contributed to this report.