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U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, who is hearing the consolidated concussion lawsuits brought by more than 4,800 former NFLers, yesterday ordered the parties into mediation, just two weeks before she had said she would rule on the league’s motion to dismiss the case. Retired U.S. District Court Judge Layn Phillips has been appointed mediator, and he will report back to the federal court on or before Sept. 3. Brody wrote in her order she would not rule on the motion to dismiss until that date. Brody also placed a gag order on the parties now that the case is in mediation. In her order, Brody indicated the two sides agreed to mediation. “I held an informal exploratory telephone conference with lead counsel,” she wrote. “As a consequence, I order parties, through their lead counsel, to engage in mediation to determine if consensual resolution is possible.” The NFL in a statement said, "We respect and will comply with the Court’s order regarding mediation and will be available to meet with Judge Phillips at his direction" (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). In N.Y., Ken Belson notes the “two-month window for the mediator gives Brody more time to write or adjust her opinion on whether to dismiss the case.” Both sides have “talked about the strengths of their arguments, but they have a lot to lose potentially, perhaps giving them an incentive to settle.” If Brody’s ruling “is appealed, as many legal experts expect, the case could drag on for months and generate even larger legal bills.” The discovery process “can also be expensive” (N.Y. TIMES, 7/9). Fordham Univ. and Baruch College sports law professor Marc Edelman called it '''highly unlikely'' that either side would budge during mediation." He said, ''The sentimental impact of this type of case is one that would make it strongly advantageous for the plaintiffs to get to a jury. The position the NFL has taken is they are not liable for anything that's happened to the players” (AP, 7/8).
BUCKLE UP: The WALL STREET JOURNAL’s Kevin Clark noted by "all accounts, the battle could take years to settle, with thousands of players' medical histories likely to become a point of contention.” Even cases of “demonstrable brain damage, for instance, will be subject to questions about when exactly that damage occurred -- in a professional game, in a college game -- or in a childhood fall from a tree?” The discovery period “alone could take two years.” For now, plaintiffs' attorneys “have focused on athletes who played before 1968 or between 1988 and 1993, when no collective bargaining agreements existed.” Players' attorney David Frederick said that those cases “render moot the NFL's argument about CBA jurisdiction.” There are “around 300 players in the suit who fall into that category.” NFL attorney Paul Clement in April said that those “would be the toughest cases to defend, but stressed that [the] league's ‘unprecedented’ benefits apply even to the so-called gap-years players” (WSJ.com, 7/8).
Any player suspensions as a result of their connection to the Florida-based Biogenesis clinic likely will be "handed down shortly after" the All-Star break with MLB's investigation "in its final stages," according to Tom Haudricourt of the MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL. MLB does not plan to "take away" from next week's All-Star Game at Citi Field by "suspending a large number of players beforehand, even if its investigation were complete by then." Reports have indicated there are 20 or more players "with ties to performance-enhancing drugs sold out of the now-shuttered clinic under former director Tony Bosch." The league plans to "announce the suspensions en masse," so several players will be "playing with suspensions hanging over their heads while appeals are put into motion" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 7/7). But USA TODAY's Bob Nightengale writes under that scenario, a "tainted player" could win the All-Star Game MVP Award again. Then-Giants LF Melky Cabrera last year "took home the trophy and a little more than a month later was suspended for 50 games" for violating MLB's drug policy. The odds are "actually greater this year, with four players on All-Star rosters whose names have been linked to MLB's investigation of the Biogenesis Clinic" -- Rangers RF Nelson Cruz, Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta, Padres SS Everth Cabrera and A's P Bartolo Colon. It would be "ideal if MLB could announce its findings before next Tuesday's All-Star Game ... preventing any dirty player from defacing the showcase, but that's not going to happen" (USA TODAY, 7/9). In S.F., Scott Ostler noted MLB Commissioner Bud Selig is "vowing to come down hard on players" tied to the clinic. But while he "prepares to bring down the hammer of Thor, Selig will be helping honor some of those antlerheads at the All-Star festivities." Ostler: "Awkward!" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 7/7).
IN OR OUT? The AP's Tim Dahlberg writes under the header, "Puig Might Make All-Star Game Fun Again." Dodgers RF Yasiel Puig is among the five players vying for the final spot on the NL roster and fans will "tune in just to watch him, and they may buy tickets to see him." Puig's presence is "not going to save the All-Star game because the game itself is such an anachronism," but he "just might make the game interesting enough to watch" (AP, 7/9). ESPN's Bomani Jones said if Puig loses the fan vote to get into the game, MLB should "figure out some sort of way" to add him to the roster. ESPN's Dan Le Batard said, "We want to watch him … in the game. Figure out a way to put him in the game, even if you have to do so illegally" ("Dan Le Batard Is Highly Questionable," ESPN2, 7/8). CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco said Puig should not be in the All-Star Game, but "it's the All-Star Game, who really cares?" FoxSports.com's Peter Schrager argued Puig is "having an all-time season and he's fun to watch." Schrager: "It's the All-Star Game! Who cares?" ("Rome," CBS Sports Network, 7/8).
UFC President Dana White yesterday said that he "would keep" a Ronda Rousey-Miesha Tate fight on Dec. 28 and that a rematch between Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva "will take place at a date to be determined," according to Lance Pugmire of the L.A. TIMES. White said earlier yesterday that he "didn’t want the possible 'biggest fight in UFC history'" in Weidman-Silva II "to contend for a sports audience on Super Bowl weekend, with the game being televised next year" by Fox. White said that he was "'tempted' to shift Rousey’s originally scheduled Dec. 28 bout against Tate to February, in order to pursue" the Weidman-Silva rematch on that date (LATIMES.com, 7/8). White said, "I'm thinking, why have a card that conflicts with the Super Bowl on Fox? We want our own date for this massive fight with no conflicts." Fox has been UFC's official broadcast partner since early '12 (ESPN.com, 7/8). Meanwhile, Pugmire cited a source as saying that UFC 162 on Saturday featuring Weidman-Silva "generated somewhere between 625,000 and 650,000" PPV buys (LATIMES.com, 7/8).
ALL BUT THE FINISH: ESPN's Michael Wilbon noted the net "can't actually show" Weidman's knockout of Silva due to UFC's rights policy. Wilbon: "The UFC people now are nearly as stupid as the boxing people, who said, 'Oh, pay for it, pay for it. We're going to treat this like it's so exclusive.'" But ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said the "demographics in this sport are young people who are Internet savvy, and they can find this if they want to see it" ("PTI," ESPN, 7/8).