Charged with deciding whether or not to grant NFL players a lockout-stopping court injunction, Judge Susan Nelson opted to delay her decision and instead order the NFL and its players to continue mediation. Nelson instructed the NFL and the Player’s representatives to continue discussions to end the lockout and create a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). But will these talks really lead anywhere new?
It is impossible to dig into the mind of a judge; no one knows whether Susan Nelson favors the players or the owners. Clearly, Nelson herself does not relish having to make sure a charged ruling and would rather that the two sides sort the issues out on their own. That’s great, but can they? Is there enough common ground between the two sides that they are capable of reaching a compromise that works for both sides?
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The answer is yes. The NFL owners and their players are, undoubtedly, far apart on their demands. More importantly, their disparate visions for what the future of football should look like have created significant friction; players see the NFL as a league that should be dominated by its players considering the risks they take every day while owners believe that the sport’s lower number of games, large rosters, and uninsurable injury risk means that owners deserve to pocket the lion’s share of the revenue. Clearly, neither side will get what it wants in this situation and, even though both sides will bluster to the contrary, compromise is preferable to complicated litigation.
What would a new mediated compromise look like? Likely, the players would cave in on some of the owner’s less onerous demands; the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will almost certainly feature a rookie pay scale and a somewhat larger pre-revenue split left to the owners. However, the owners will also have to leave out some of their more ambitious proposals; any agreement will not have two new games added to the season and player healthcare will go untouched.
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There is some evidence that, despite the pending litigation and cat-like back and forth between competing lawyers, the real heavy hitting power brokers on both sides may be making some progress. NFL owners seem willing to let player health benefits be and to keep the existing schedule while players are willing to add a rookie pay scale of some kind and give up some revenue split. What is left is money: how much money will be exempted for owners before the pie is split? Players and owners are far away on this issue at this point and the players remain angry at the owners lack of transparency. But, with more mediation, the two sides may inch closer to a mutually agreeable number and, if they get close enough, they could compromise to avoid more litigation that could go either way. One thing is certain: every football fan is tired of this battle and hoping for a solution. If more mediation is what it takes, then bring it on!
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