NFL Lockout – The Sides Cannot Even Agree to Negotiate

Posted: April 8, 2011 in Robert J. Romano

Counsel for the players has written U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson stating that the players are willing to enter into court-supervised mediation with the National Football League to help resolve the pending lawsuit.  Counsel stated in their letter, “We are writing in response to the Court’s suggestion that the parties engage the services of the federal court in Minnesota in an effort to mediate and settle the current litigation. We take your comments regarding protecting the parties positions to heart. As class counsel on behalf of the Brady class, we think this is an excellent suggestion and are prepared to engage in such mediation without delay.  Our agreement is, of course, contingent on the NFL defendants’ agreement that they will not attempt to use this, our willingness to mediate, against the Brady class in some way.'”

Counsel for the National Football League in response sent a letter to the decertified NFLPA, asking the players return to collective bargaining mediations under the direction and supervision of Federal Mediator George Cohen.  Counsel wrote: “The purpose of the mediation would be to negotiate a settlement not only of the issues raised in the complaints, but also the many other issues that must be resolved to permit the upcoming season to be played and for the league to operate effectively. We are prepared to resume discussions as promptly as possible and to have significant ownership involvement in those discussions. Our thought would be to resume discussions under the auspices of George Cohen and his colleagues at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.  After spending the better part of three weeks with us, they know the issues, they know the parties, and I think we all agree that they were effective at getting both sides to look openly at each other’s positions and try to find solutions.  We understand that you will want appropriate assurances that the players will not compromise any legal position as a result of entering into those discussions. We are prepared to give reasonable and appropriate assurances to that effect.”

Since filing their lawsuit, the players repeatedly have said they only are interested in meeting with the league to discuss settling the litigation and the NFL repeatedly has said it only is interested in returning to mediated bargaining.  The reason is because the NFL claims the NFLPA is still a union, while the NFLPA maintains it is decertified.  If the NFLPA is not a union, the NFL is subject to potential liability that its lockout is illegal under U.S. Antitrust laws.

During the hearing on the players’ request for a preliminary injunction to lift the lockout, Judge Nelson recommended court-supervised talks, saying “such negotiations should take place at not the players’ table, not the league’s table, but a neutral table.  This is really a matter that should be resolved as soon as possible.”  Judge Nelson indicated that it would take a couple of weeks to rule on the players’ request to lift the lockout.

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