U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson has told the NFL and NFL players that she "will impose forced mediation on them early this week," according to sources cited by Schefter & Clayton of ESPN.com. The league "had wanted more mediation" in DC, while federal mediator George Cohen and the NFLPA "wanted mediation in Minnesota." Nelson will decide "what she feels is best and announce her decision early this week." Schefter & Clayton noted "one of the keys to any type of mediation is whether NFL owners are willing to not use a meeting with members of the NFL Players executive committee or members of the decertified NFLPA against the plaintiffs" in the Tom Brady v. NFL lawsuit filed in Nelson's federal court (ESPN.com, 4/10). Nelson "could appoint a mediator for the talks or opt to preside over them herself" (USA TODAY, 4/11). In N.Y., Bart Hubbuch notes Nelson forcing mediation is "potentially good news for fans," because the owners are "thought to be eager to avoid the costly antitrust case being mounted by the 10 players and their decertified union." The "big question now, however, is where that mediation will be held" (N.Y. POST, 4/11).
MR. SMITH GOES TO THE NEGOTIATIONS: The AP's Dave Campbell reported the NFL players "have made a move to allow" NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith "to be present if court-supervised talks take place between the two sides." Lawyers who "practice in a different state must file for approval through the court," and the move "allows Smith to participate in any mediation sessions that might take place under Nelson's supervision" (AP, 4/8). Court documents filed late Friday reveal that the NFL also has "added another attorney," Robert Cooper. NFL.com's Albert Breer noted "antitrust and sports law are among the areas of expertise for Cooper," who is a partner in NFL outside counsel David Boies' DC-based law firm. Meanwhile, sources said that Friday's conference call between the NFL and players "to discuss how and where -- and under whose authority -- they are willing to resume mediation" lasted more than an hour. (NFL.com, 4/9).
MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? SI.com's Peter King predicts there "won't be any real discussions toward a settlement until Nelson rules, and until the loser in that ruling appeals it to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, and that three-judge appeals panel rules." King: "There is risk for both sides in that happening, but I don't see either side being motivated to throw out an olive branch now. By the way, I'm glad to see the two sides practicing what Judge Nelson has ordered -- public silence, in effect. Nothing good came of the tit-for-tat Twitter and Internet games the players and league were playing during mediation in Washington, and since then" (SI.com, 4/11). Steelers President Art Rooney II said that he "remains 'optimistic' the 2011 season will not be interrupted by the league's first work stoppage since 1987." Rooney: "It's only April, so there's certainly time to get it done. But the other side of the coin is sooner or later we've got to get serious, and I hope it's sooner" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 4/10).
at Draft due to uncertainty over wage scale
NOT IN THE GAMEPLAN: In Jacksonville, Vito Stellino wrote the lockout "hasn’t gone as smoothly as the owners had hoped." The owners "figured they would outlast the players because they thought the players would cave when they started missing regular-season checks." But U.S. District Judge David Doty already has ruled against the owners in the NFL media fees case, and owners "have also had problems in court with their argument that they can lock out the players even though the players have decertified as a union." Stellino wrote the owners "could still win even if Nelson lifts the lockout because it could be overturned by what is generally considered a conservative appellate court in St. Louis." But if the courts do lift the lockout, the owners "will regret even more" agreeing to the last CBA in '06 "because they would be unlikely to get what they want if they can’t make the lockout stick" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 4/10).