SBJ/May 30 - June 6, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL doubts mediation will produce results

Mediation between the owners and players is scheduled to resume June 7 in federal court in Minnesota, but the NFL is clearly not convinced there will be much in the way of results when the two sides sit down again.

GETTY IMAGES
Jeff Pash says mediation is too focused on litigation rather than collective bargaining.
NFL chief labor negotiator Jeff Pash last week called the venue artificial because it was linked to the antitrust litigation brought against the league by the 10 players of Brady v. NFL. The judge in that case ordered the mediation, which is being overseen by a magistrate judge.

Pash contends that the mediation is too focused on the litigation and not enough on collective bargaining. There have been two, two-day mediation sessions since the lawsuit was filed and the league subsequently locked out the players.

Said Mark Murphy, president of the Green Bay Packers and a member of the owners’ labor negotiating committee, “The players have not negotiated since they decertified [on March 11].”

“The problem with litigation,” Murphy said, “is it delays the process. Topics are covered but they are not negotiated.”

Jeffrey Kessler, counsel to the players, referred questions about the NFL’s stance to the NFL Players Association. The NFLPA did not reply for comment.

The NFLPA, with its decertification, does not hold standing to represent the players for bargaining, operating instead as a trade association. The group’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, is also counsel to the players.

Asked whether he was surprised by any developments so far, Pash answered only that the union had not decertified earlier than it did, because it is his contention that was the group’s plan for two years.

The mood among the owners at the meeting was somber but resigned to seeing the strife through. There was little noticeable celebration of winning what, for the owners, was a key victory earlier this month at the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, keeping the lockout in place.

The owners’ message has been to get away from litigation and get to the bargaining table. The players’ leadership has resisted that approach and is pushing forward with the antitrust lawsuit — which, given the 8th Circuit decision, is one of the key bargaining chips the players have.

FINANCIAL CONSIDERATIONS: When the NFL replies to that antitrust complaint next Monday in a Minnesota courtroom, the clock on discovery commences. The presumption has been that the players will move quickly to seek the owners’ financial records. Before decertification, one of the arguments to the owners for acquiescing to the players’ demands for full financial transparency was that, ultimately, a court could order it. The owners never fully agreed, offering at the last moment for a third party to see financial documents, an offer the players rejected.

David Boies, an outside counsel to the league, questioned whether the financial records would be eligible for discovery. Those records, he said, are in the past, and the lawsuits the league is facing from both active and retired players involve the future of free agency. Boies said he would be hard pressed to see how a court could find relevance in the teams’ past financial documents.

NAMING-RIGHTS UPDATE: The New York Jets and Giants are getting closer to finding a naming-rights buyer for year-old New Meadowlands Stadium, sources said. Steve Tisch, New York Giants co-owner, said he is optimistic and does not believe the lockout will impede the search. One of the sources said that while unanticipated events could stop the deal, if all goes well, there should be a new name on the stadium by the scheduled start of the 2011 season.

NIKE GETTING READY: Nike hosted a suite across from the owners’ main meeting room at the Westin Indianapolis, displaying the fabric the company will use in uniforms in 2012. Nike agreed last year to become the new apparel supplier of the league in a deal valued at more than $1 billion over five years. The actual uniforms are not ready, but Nike wanted to show the owners the material the company will use. Reebok is in the last year of its deal.

PREPARING FOR LONDON: The NFL will decide in early August whether to move forward on the London game scheduled for October, but the league is in the U.K. market now collecting names for a ticket registry. Fans entering their names will be contacted when tickets go on sale. The Oct. 23 game, between Chicago and Tampa Bay, would mark the fifth consecutive season the NFL has played a regular-season game in London.

AP IMAGES
Colts owner Jim Irsay joked that he might not cut his hair till the lockout ends.
COMINGS AND GOINGS: Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has let his hair grow longer, and when it was pointed out, he said jokingly he might not cut it again until the lockout ends. … Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, fresh off his decision not to run for president, spoke to NFL owners at a reception high atop the Simon Property building across the street from the Indiana State Capitol. In introducing the governor, Commissioner Roger Goodell said jokingly that Daniels decided not to run so he could speak to the owners.
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