Meaningless Mediation Begins In Battle For Leverage

Today the owners and player reps sat down at a table and pretended to work out an agreement as they begin another round of what they are calling mediation. Apparently the player reps and owners idea of mediation means, poorly pretending to try to settle a dispute.

The actual definition of mediation is, “the attempt to settle a legal dispute through active participation of a third party (mediator) who works to find points of agreement and make those in conflict agree on a fair result.”

But clearly there is no actual attempting of settling by either side going on and that’s not going to change until some decisions by the court are made.

The Federal courts can keep ordering mediation, but for now they can’t order a deal to be made and the simple truth is neither side is going to budge until this whole leverage issue gets worked out. Anyone who has ever swapped lunches in a school cafeteria knows that negotiations come down to one factor, leverage.

The answer to who holds the leverage in this labor dispute rests in whatever decisions the courts make in these next couple of weeks. Obviously the main focus is on the Eight Circuit of Appeals decision of whether or not to overturn Judge Nelson’s decision to lift the lockout, but Judge Doty is still deciding on what to do with that $4 billion “war chest” of lockout money, which will also play a role in how much leverage one side has over the other.

The owners thought that money was theirs to use, after all they specifically negotiated to get that money if a lockout was to take place. Judge Doty disagreed and ruled that the NFL had violated their agreement with the players and the money was frozen until Judge Doty awards the damages. If Judge Doty awards the players with a sizable portion of that $4 billion in damages the players will gain a sizable chunk of leverage over the owners, however the impact of that court decision pales in comparison to the Eight Circuit’s decision.

For all the information and stories about the lockout there have been very few tangible results to report on. A quick summary of the decision the Eight Circuit is facing goes like this, the owners opted out of the original CBA that was in place and started making demands for a bigger chunk of revenue and more games. The players chose to decertify as that was their only legal path to gain the leverage they think they are rightfully entitled to. The league then claimed the decertification was a sham and locked the players out and the players sued, which of course resulted in this tedious battle of the courts. Still Judge Nelson ruled that the lockout was illegal and should be lifted, her reasoning was that the way the NFL operates is completely outside of the laws in this country, but they are allowed to circumvent those laws when there is a player’s union to collectively bargain these types of agreements with, as there is no such union at this time, the lockout as well as the entire way the NFL operates their business violates multiple anti-trust laws.

The beauty in Judge Nelson’s ruling is the simplicity of it all. With all the rhetoric flying back and forth it can be confusing trying to figure out exactly what is going on. Luckily Judge Nelson made sure to explain both arguments and her conclusion in simple terms so you don’t have to have a law degree to understand what she said. On page 40 of her ruling she explains to the NFL that not only is the decertification legit, but that even if it is just a negotiating ploy on the players part it’s still valid and legal, “because the disclaimer was unequivocal, the Union is not continuing to act as the Players’ bargaining representative, and because the Players have given up very significant rights in doing so, any subjective motivation for disclaimer is irrelevant.”

Of course you know what happened next, the league appealed to the Eight Circuit, which then issued a stay on Judge Nelson’s ruling, thus reinstating the lockout until a final decision is made after the June 3 hearing.

After collecting numerous losses in the courts with their ineffective arguments, one would think the owners might want to change it’s legal strategy, but no the owners are sticking to their original argument. In the NFL’s file to the Eight Circuit the league continued to stress that the decertification was a sham and they based their entire argument on saying that Judge Nelson misinterpreted the law and over stepped her authority and that will be what the court ultimately has to decide on.

Which brings us back to this new round of pointless mediation. If the owners aren’t even going to tweak their argument despite their recent losses, what makes anyone think that they will want to strike a deal now, or think they will ultimately lose the case and all the leverage that goes with it? As for the players, why would they want to negotiate a deal now? When they seem to have the momentum and believe the courts will grant them the leverage they are seeking, why wouldn’t they wait until they gain that leverage?

When asked about this new round of mediation Steelers owner Art Rooney told the NFL Network’s Albert Breer, “We’d like to make progress, but it’ll be hard to do. We have to wait to see what happens June 3.”

Which let’s be honest is just a nice way of saying, this mediation is a complete waste of everyone’s time, but we will go through the motions anyway as we wait for the ruling on who is awarded the prize of leverage.

Of course you fans don’t really care about any of this you just want football back and understandably so. Unfortunately instead of reading about possible free-agent signings, trades or mini-camp updates, you fans are left with speculative court updates for now.

June 3 can’t get here fast enough.

2 Responses to “Meaningless Mediation Begins In Battle For Leverage”

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