The unions for hockey, baseball and basketball are siding with the players in the NFL lockout court battle, saying the league's lockout should be lifted.

The players associations for major leagues, NHL and NBA filed a brief yesterday with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the case presents "vitally important issues" for the unions and their members. The players associations say professional athletes' careers are short, and the loss of even part of a season causes personal and professional injures that can't be compensated.

That reiterates the NFL players' argument that the lockout is causing them irreparable harm - the players can't work out, or sign contracts with any of the 32 clubs while the lockout persists. A federal judge in Minnesota agreed and lifted the lockout April 25, but the league appealed.

The appeals court reversed U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson's decision just 4 days later. And on Monday, the appellate court ruled the lockout can stay in place until a full appeal is heard on whether it is legal. Attorneys for the players were expected to file briefs later yesterday, in advance of an appeals court hearing June 3 in St. Louis.

In keeping the lockout, the appellate court said it believes the NFL has proven it "likely will suffer some degree of irreparable harm without a stay."

In their brief yesterday, the players' associations said "there is no off-season in professional sports - only the portion of the work year during which no games are played." The unions said that part of the year brings opportunities - such as the option to change cities, teams or the trajectory of one's career.

Noteworthy

* A judge has sentenced Marni Yang, who was convicted of killing the pregnant girlfriend of former Chicago Bears player Shaun Gayle, to life in prison.

* A Florida appeals court has ruled against several media companies seeking to open a key pretrial hearing in the slaying of former Washington Redskins star Sean Taylor.