Group for fans wants to end NFL lockout

May 20, 2011 - 2:58 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A nonprofit group that has been fighting sport work stoppages has weighed in on the NFL court battle, saying ending the lockout is in the best interest of consumers.

The Sports Fans Coalition, which says it gives fans a voice on public policy issues and fights for fan access to games, filed a brief Friday in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. It supports the players and wants the lockout lifted, noting that fans spend billions of dollars to see their teams perform.

"Whether the owners' boycott lowers the quality of the 2011 season by preventing fans' favorite clubs from integrating new talent during this summer, or disrupts or even eliminates the season if the boycott fails to achieve the desired concessions from players, injunctive relief is essential to sports fans," attorneys for the Sports Fans Coalition wrote.

The players also want to end the lockout, saying it is causing them irreparable harm. A federal judge in Minnesota agreed and lifted it last month, but the league appealed.

The appeals court ruled Monday that the lockout can stay in place until the court hears a full appeal on whether it is legal. Attorneys for the players are expected to file briefs later Friday, in advance of an appeals court hearing June 3.

The players have a federal antitrust lawsuit against the league pending before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson. Although the legality of the lockout took center stage in recent court battles, the main issues in the antitrust case still need to be resolved.

On Friday, attorneys for the players filed documents in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, opposing a league request for more time to respond to that lawsuit. The players said they've already agreed to two extensions, giving the league a total of 52 more days to file a response.

The league has argued that it shouldn't have to respond to the lawsuit until the appeal is resolved in the 8th Circuit.

But the players say the lawsuit will go forward whether or not the lockout is lifted and that the NFL's request for an extension is "yet another deliberate step in their campaign to crush the players by extending the lockout for as long as they can."