Federal appeals court rules NFL lockout is legal

- NEW YORK (Reuters) - A Federal appeals court ruled on Friday to throw out a judge's order lifting the National Football League's lockout while owners and players worked on reaching a new labor deal to start the 2011 season on time.

The U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis ruled on an April 25 decision by U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson, who had put the lockout on hold after NFL players had said the work stoppage was causing them irreparable harm.

"We conclude that the injunction did not conform to the provisions of the Norris-LaGuardia Act ... and we therefore vacate the district court's order," the appellate court said in its 54-page ruling.

"While we respect the court's decision, today's ruling does not change our mutual recognition that this matter must be resolved through negotiation," the NFL and NFLPA said in a joint statement.

"We are committed to our current discussions and reaching a fair agreement that will benefit all parties for years to come, and allow for a full 2011 season."

Earlier this week a group of retired NFL players who feel they have been excluded from the mediation sessions taking place filed a complaint against owners and current players.

The group of retired players have a hearing scheduled for August 8 where they will argue the NFL and NFLPA are conspiring to depress the amounts of pension and disability benefits paid to former players in order to maximize the salaries and benefits to current players.

The lockout began after talks between the league and the players over a bargaining agreement broke down on March 11.

NFL players succeeded in April in winning a district court injunction to halt the lockout but that ruling was appealed and the league's request for a temporary stay on the injunction that lifted the league's lockout was granted shortly after.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Justin Palmer)