Some of the little guys in the NFL labour dispute have thrown their support behind the players in their legal fight to end the owner-imposed lockout.
A 44-member group of local elected officials and small business owners filed an amicus brief in support of the players on Tuesday, saying a prolonged lockout will result in jobs being lost and government budgets being short. The group includes state lawmakers, city council members and pub owners from Washington to Texas.
The group says a federal court in St. Paul, Minn., was right to order an injunction to lift the lockout. The 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has put U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's ruling on hold temporarily and is scheduled to hear arguments June 3 on the legality of the ongoing lockout.
"This injunction is about far more than the paycheques of the players or the fortunes of the owners," lawyers for the group wrote. "It is also about the livelihoods of the business owners whose livelihoods depend on NFL game day and the taxpayers and elected officials who have committed their scarce resources to the NFL enterprise."
The group is comprised of 32 local government leaders, including Pennsylvania state Rep. Kevin Boyle, Washington state Sen. Steve Conway and Billy Davis, the mayor of Crowley, Texas. It also includes several local sports bar owners and operators in several NFL cities including Denver, Dallas, Green Bay and St. Paul.
The filing argues that players and owners aren't the only parties with something to lose if the $9-billion US business does not start on time this fall. They say local governments rely on NFL games for tax revenue and economic stimulus. Stadium workers and pub owners depend on the games for jobs and several cities and states are owed games because they committed millions of dollars in public money to help build new stadiums.
"The NFL's lockout threatens the livelihood of thousands of American workers," the brief stated. "A lockout would also deprive state and local governments of substantial tax revenues that are generated by the league's operations. Such losses could not come at a worse time, when state and local budgets are already stretched to the breaking point."
The Associated Press left a message with the NFL seeking comment.
The owners also have some support from the business community.
Last week the U.S. Chamber of Commerce business lobbying group filed a brief supporting the league. The chamber, like the NFL, noted that the dispute is currently before the U.S. National Labor Relations Board in the form of an unfair labour negotiations charge against the players. Until then, the chamber said, the court fight should be on hold and the NFL should be able to lock out its players if needed.
The brief filed Tuesday for the players cites several studies and figures provided by local teams to outline the impact NFL games have on local economies, saying it is in the public interest for the three-judge panel to uphold Nelson's ruling and lift the lockout.
The Green Bay Packers, according to the brief, estimate they bring $281 million annually into the community and are responsible for 2,560 jobs. It also cited a 2003 study that found the Houston Texans franchise and Reliant Stadium bring $577 million and 7,800 jobs to the area.
"Jobs will be lost, and government budgets will be left short," the brief said. "And worse still, all of this will occur after taxpayers have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to subsidize the very stadiums that the NFL intends to shutter for its own financial advantage."
The Arizona Cardinals used $346 million in taxpayer funds to help pay for their new stadium built in 2006 and the Cincinnati Bengals used $453 million in 2000 to help build Paul Brown Stadium.
Without football games to provide millions in tax revenue and other income — a University of Minnesota study found that one Minnesota Vikings home playoff game generates $9.1 million — local governments will have difficulty paying their outstanding bills, lawyers said.
"When a local government does invest in a new stadium, that investment is premised on the expectation that the stadium will fuel further economic activity and growth," the filing said. "That simply cannot happen if there is a prolonged lockout that prevents the stadiums from being used for football games."