Well here's some of the news we've all been waiting for. The players get their druthers. Mediation to recommence in Minneapolis.
April 11, 2011
Judge orders NFL, players to try mediation again
By: Albert Breer, NFL Network | Last Updated: 4/11/2011 3:04 PM
A Federal District Court Judge Monday ordered the NFL and the NFL players association to court-supervised mediation beginning Thursday in Minneapolis, Minn.
Judge Susan Nelson, who is presiding over Brady et al v. National Football League et al, the players’ anti-trust suit against the NFL, issued the mediation order Monday. Judge Nelson has appointed Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan to serve as mediator, and ordered formal mediation to begin in Boylan’s courtroom Thursday morning. Nelson has ordered that both sides file briefs by 5 p.m. CT Monday. She will meet in person with the Brady class Tuesday in Minneapolis at 9 a.m., and with the NFL on Wednesday at 9 a.m. Nelson said at the end of last week's five-hour hearing, regarding the players' request to lift the NFL lockout, that she'd take "a couple weeks" to rule on the injunction, and she urged the two sides meet in the meantime.
The NFL campaigned in a series of letters to return the negotiations to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C., where 16 days of negotiations were staged under the auspices of federal mediator George Cohen, and offered legal protection to the players in light of their concerns that such talks could be used against them in a separate case before the National Labor Relations Board.
The Brady class, in its letters, said it desired to take Nelson up on her offer to facilitate the hearings in Minnesota and, according to sources, was against returning to the FMCS because of the poor way talks ended there on March 11, and lack of binding power wielded by Cohen. Nelson's involvement won't be binding, but she would have more ability to control talks than Cohen could, while overseeing an appointed mediator.
First, with Nelson overseeing the talks, only she and Boylan could declare an impasse. Second, as the sides agreed on individual issues, she or the appointed mediator could move each one off the table, making for a more efficient process, without allowing one side or the other to go back on something that was already agreed upon. On Friday, in advance of Monday's order, the Brady class filed paperwork to add NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith to its counsel, and the NFL added Robert M. Cooper, a partner in league outside counsel David Boies' firm, to its counsel. The maneuvers allow Smith and Cooper to take part in any and all mediation proceedings.
The motion to add Smith has been granted.
Boies, a recent addition to the league's legal team, was the lead attorney for the NFL during the injunction hearing. In any case, if mediation fails and Nelson rules, no matter which way that ruling goes, an appeal would be a near certainty, taking this case to the eighth circuit.
The NFL lockout reached the one-month milepost on Monday.
AdamSchefter Owners present at today's mediation, according to the NFL: Clark Hunt, Robert Kraft, Jerry Richardson, Art Rooney.
Courtroom football: mediation phase
Prospects of progress; Smith joins counsel Andrew Brandt
Mediation Part II begins in earnest today as the key player in the NFL in 2011, Judge Susan Nelson, has ordered such talks to occur. After Nelson "urged" the two sides to talk last week after the hearing on whether to lift the lockout, she found out what NFL fans have known for two years about these two sides: these guys do not agree on the meaning of the word "talk".
Forced to intervene in the semantics game that brewed about if and where and when each side would agree to mediate, Nelson summoned the parties to a conference call Friday. As the Players wanted, mediation would proceed under her watch with a mediator across town, Judge Arthur Boylan.
Boylan has great experience in this area. According to a source, he has done "hundreds, if not thousands" of mediations. He will operate out of three rooms, putting each side in one room and bringing them together to talk with him.
It is now Boylan's challenge to do what 18 days with mediator George Cohen in February and March could not: have them engage in reasoned and productive negotiations towards common ground. Can he do it? He can, but it will be an enormous challenge.
Reasons for optimism
Boylan is infused with more power and inherent respect than given Cohen due to circumstances and timing. Cohen was dealing with herds -- dozens of people from each side went in and out of that building -- and had to shepherd them through a difficult process. And although his gag order held for a while, it eventually ruptured as both sides treated his warning as that of a substitute teacher.
Boylan has the advantage of forced mediation. He will be reporting back to his boss down the hall, Judge Nelson, whose ruling on whether to lift the lockout is coming soon. Or not. Boylan's reports of progress or not could potentially cause Nelson to hold her ruling. Nelson does not have to make a ruling at any appointed time; progress with Boylan could delay or even erase the need for a decision.
Also, mediation involving small groups of mostly lawyers can actually be a good thing. The emotion and personalities that clouded the earlier mediation will dissipate, as lawyers can hopefully frame an outline for a deal that can be filled in with football issues at some point.
A moment in time
The biggest hope is that this is a reality moment for the Owners and the Players. Nelson has thrown a lifeline to both sides to use this brief window of time purposefully towards the basis for a CBA for the next 5-8 years. She has inferred that one party is not going to like the way she rules, and that could set off a long chain of legal events that do not get us anywhere near an NFL practice or game. Nelson has offered mediation as a way to seize the moment.
Reasons for pessimism
The Players feel emboldened after the hearing last week. Nelson seemed to be leaning their way regarding the venue -- the Court over the NLRB -- and irreparable harm, noting that if the lockout were not lifted it could last forever.
The Owners feel that Nelson could still rule for them and even if she does not, they feel good about appeal. David Boies is known primarily for his prowess in appellate courts and the Eighth Circuit may be more kind to the NFL than the District Court level. And even if the NFL loses on appeal and opens for business, the Players will not like working under temporary rules that will resemble those of 2010.
All of this is to say that both sides may just lightly engage over the coming days until Nelson makes her ruling. We may not see true commitment from either side of the table knowing that Nelson has yet to rule.
Also, for the same reason that having mostly lawyers in the room could be a good thing, it could be a negative. Lawyers will do what they do. They will divert, delay and digress. They will caucus; they will recess; they will take their time in needing to talk to their clients, etc. They will produce billable hours.
And beyond all of this, there have been two years of talks between these two litigants. It has produced very little hope of an agreement.
What about De?
Added to the legal team of the Players this week has been one DeMaurice Smith, last seen as Executive Director of the NFLPA: the union. Since the union decertified and class counsel represented the Players, many asked about his role. Among the many who asked may have been Judge Nelson.
I am speculating, but the reason Smith was added to the counsel list for the Players may be -- aside the fact that he has been a litigator before -- that Judge Nelson asked what his role was.
Now Smith will participate in the mediations as a lawyer for the Players, the group he used to represent as their union leader. It will be interesting to see if Smith is a divisive or unifying force among the brigade of Players' attorneys.
We can only hope for the best with Mediation, part II. Let’s hope Arthur Boylan can advance the ball in Courtroom football before throwing a lateral to Judge Nelson.
More time, more uncertainty and if the owners don't get their way they'll appeal and blah blah blah. At least he understands the term, "billable hours", LOL.
Agents rooting hard for a CBA
Player funding continues Andrew Brandt
As the mediation talks resume in Minnesota with radio silence from each side -- as violation of Judge Susan Nelson’s gag order could have meaningful consequences – let’s take a break from courtroom football and look the group of people that Jerry Maguire and Arliss made famous: player agents. There may be no group of people, besides the players themselves, wishing harder for a new CBA. As a former agent myself, I understand their plight (but don’t “feel their pain”).
Ungoverned and unfettered
The NFLPA regulates NFL player agents, although only in their former role as a union.
The NFLPA – union version – certified agents to negotiate with NFL teams. Each year, aspiring agents apply, pay the application fee ($1650), submit to background checks, sit for a test in July and (hopefully) then are set free to represent players. In 2010, there were 160 new agents added to the existing 825 NFL player agents.
Beyond the entrance requirements, the NFLPA -- union version -- had authority to discipline agents who ran afoul of regulations such as the “Junior rule” limiting contact between agents and underclassmen. It also provided arbitration for agents seeking to recover fees against players and/or other agents.
The union’s decertification means there is no governing body for agents. There are neither rules – nor enforcement of rules -- on contacting active or future players, poaching players from other agents, paying players or other unscrupulous conduct. Free from any governance from the former union, it is the Wild West for agents now in an already-cutthroat business.
As in any year, potential draft picks lean on agents for financial assistance this time of year. The lockout has no effect on that. Agents foot the bill for pre and post-Combine training, costing up to $50,000 during the long offseason.
In previous years, though, agents knew when the gravy train would end. At some point in the summer, the player would sign his contract with the team, receive a bonus and start supporting himself (and perhaps extended family). This year there is no end in sight to the labor dispute and agent funding of rookies could continue indefinitely.
Business model changing
Representing rookies even in the best of times has been a difficult proposition in terms of margins. With a maximum 3% fee – many top picks pay less -- and bonuses dropping off significantly after the third round, player agents are fighting to be profitable, especially with middle or low round picks. This year the return on investment will be less.
Even for the high picks, agents are bracing for a storm. Compensation models for first-rounders will be dramatically reduced -- perhaps $300 million in reduced guarantees from first round picks -- while the agent investment in the players continues to grow.
Agents of top picks are hoping for a temporary installation of the 2010 NFL work rules if Judge Nelson decides to lift the lockout and force the NFL to open. This would implement the existing system of paying rookies, a windfall for top picks and their agents. However, even if the old rules were imposed, NFL management may wait for the new CBA and its reduced rookie compensation model, whenever may be.
Funding goes beyond rookies
Veteran players are also starting to worry about their finances with no end in sight to the labor dispute. The NFLPA has a fund for players that played in 2009 and 2010, a maximum of $60,000 over six months with over 1000 players not entitled to the full amount.
The stories are beginning about the lengths that players are going to in securing funds through this period. In the meantime, the agent will be the primary person that many players look to for funding. Several agents have told me that they have been advancing money to players in small amounts and expect the requests to get larger as time goes by.
Free agents dazed and confused
While many fans are concerned about whether there will be football in the fall, many players are much more concerned about where they will be playing.
800 of the 1800 NFL players have expired contracts. Some are exclusive to their teams, some have limited rights, and some will be unrestricted free agents with leverage. All of them have questions and insecurities about when and where they will find employment. And the one repository for all those questions and concerns is with their agents.
Agents are answering the same questions over and over again from their clients during these months of uncertainty. They must be agent/friend/psychologist/human resource manager during this time. As I tell agents that call for my opinion on what will happen and what to tell their player, I tell them to be positive, patient and as informed as possible. If they are not adequately informed, players will find another agent who is.
Cheerleading a deal
Publicly, the agent community is standing behind the NFLPA and its strategy, fully backing DeMaurice Smith and his plan of decertification and litigation to achieve the best result for the players. Privately, they are hoping for a deal sooner rather than later. For example, one of the most high-profile agents, Drew Rosenhaus, with approximately 150 clients, is using Twitter and other resources to root on a deal and warn of the consequences of not having one.
The best present for player agents is a CBA to get their players moving, their rookies paid and their personal bank accounts liquid again.
NFL labor talks recessed until Tuesday
MINNEAPOLIS -- Day 2 of court-ordered talks between the NFL and its locked-out players recessed Friday afternoon, with the judge giving both sides a significant amount of homework in the form of questions they need to answer upon convening again at 11 a.m. ET Tuesday.
The sides began their second day of talks amid hopes for progress in their fight over how to divide $9 billion in revenue. The work stoppage entered its 35th day Friday.
"There has been progress but it's not like [there's a deal] right around the corner," Hall of Famer Carl Eller, among those on the players side of the talks, told ESPN's Ed Werder.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan is overseeing the talks at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis. The two groups spent more than nine hours together in his chambers Thursday and for about five hours on Friday.
"We have work to do over the weekend. ... It is positive that both sides continue to communicate. ... We want get it resolved," commissioner Roger Goodell said on a conference call with San Diego Chargers season ticket-holders. "We understand it's not good for anyone, especially our fans."
Goodell, several league officials, attorneys and four team owners are on hand for the NFL, with players association officials, attorneys and a couple of players present on the other side.
"The court has indicated it wants to continue with everyone talking as long as it makes sense," said Michael Hausfeld, an attorney for the players.
The closed-door sessions are confidential, but both sides called the first day constructive. The talks are the first since negotiations toward a new collective bargaining agreement fell apart last month.
Fans are frustrated by the back-and-forth rhetoric with no promise of an accord before training camps are to begin in late July.
"Well, I'm a fan too," Eller said. "We would like to ease their minds. We can't tell them the outcome, but we are very interested in having a football season. A lot of things depend on it, of course. But, I'm with the fans. We want them to be happy. That's what's important to us."
It was the first time the sides have sat down to talk since March 11, when the collective bargaining agreement expired, the union was dissolved to clear the way for a court fight and the NFL wound up with its first work stoppage since the monthlong strike in 1987.
With the 2011 season in peril, Boylan is overseeing this round of talks after 16 days of mediated sessions in Washington failed to secure a new labor pact.
Goodell stepped away from the session to join a teleconference with 5,300 Cleveland Browns season ticket-holders for 20 minutes Thursday. He would not characterize the negotiations, which are supposed to remain confidential, but did reiterate the importance of the sides getting together.
"I can tell you that it's a positive step when the parties are talking," he said. "We saw the March 11 proposal as responsive to issues raised by the players and there are many attractive elements in it. ... Our entire focus is on getting a deal done."
Goodell said the league hopes to release its schedule for next season within the next 10 days and plans to play "a full season." He also said there are no plans to use replacement players as the league did in 1987 and that the Super Bowl in Indianapolis could be pushed back one week or the two-week gap after the conference championships could be shortened to one if necessary.
Goodell's main message was to assure fans they would see the Browns play next season.
"We're going to make sure we have football, and more of it," he said.
Goodell held a similar session Wednesday with Dolphins season ticket-holders. During that call, he stressed the league's goal of keeping player costs under control and, in response to a question about financial transparency, said the NFL's disclosure has been "extraordinary." He insisted the players know "the revenue down to the penny," a reference to the union's push for the league to open the books.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who ordered the mediation, is still considering a request from the players to lift the lockout imposed by the owners. After an April 6 hearing, she said she planned to rule on the injunction request in a couple weeks.
When asked about the presumed deadline, when Nelson will rule on the players' request, Eller said: "When it convenes we want to have something for her so there is pressure."
Players including MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning filed the request along with a class-action antitrust suit against the league. The lawsuit has been combined with two other similar claims from retirees, former players and rookies-to-be.
Information from ESPN's Ed Werder, ESPN.com's Bill Williamson and The Associated Press was used in this report.
Even fools and the fools who hire them are in it for a buck.
There aint gonna be no money lost on a cash cow.
It does get press in the off season.
Right now yer talkin playoffs in NBA...NHL...and baseball has started.
This time would be dead air except for the draft in NFL.
Cancel the season so we won't have to go through the favre drama of unretiring.
Here's the latest news on the court ordered mediation. I've highlighted the defining statement. We'll just file it under the heading, DUH!
Like, did he expect something different to happen?
'Some progress' in labor talks on day NFL schedule released
- By Albert Breer NFL Network
- NFL Network Reporter
- Published: April 19, 2011 at 12:39 p.m.
- Updated: April 19, 2011 at 11:47 p.m.
- Liked: 7 | Comments: 69
- By Albert Breer NFL Network
More Columns >
MINNEAPOLIS -- The NFL and players met for seven hours Tuesday, their third day of court-ordered mediation before U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan.
According to sources, it was a tough day of talks, with the sides largely spending time separately, but "some progress" was made.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones (right) joined NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at Tuesday's mediation session in Minneapolis. (Jim Mone/Associated Press)
Hanging over this week's talks is the prospect of a ruling from U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson, who ordered this mediation, on the players' request for an injunction to lift the NFL lockout, which the league imposed March 12 after the NFL Players Association decertified as a union. Nelson emphasized at an April 6 hearing that she will rule "in due course" on the players' motion and wouldn't be stayed by the ongoing mediation. When the sides resume mediation Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. CT in Boylan's chambers, it will have been two weeks since she said she expected to rule in "a couple weeks."
The NFL schedule was released shortly after Tuesday's session, and Commissioner Roger Goodell struck an optimistic tone while speaking to NFL Network, saying the season would be played as intended. "Clearly, we have some uncertainty with respect to the labor situation, but this is a great day for the fans," Goodell said. "We're doing all we can to prepare for the 2011 season. We're announcing the schedule as usual, around this time of year, because we know that is an important point where fans start looking forward to the season, and I think there's every reason for them to do that. We have every intention of playing a full schedule, and that's why we're releasing it as we normally do."
When asked if he was confident Week 1 would go off as planned, Goodell responded: "We've set the schedule up to play the full 16-game schedule, and that's certainly our intention, that's how we put the schedule together, and we certainly are working towards that."
Goodell was joined by general counsel Jeff Pash, outside counsel Bob Batterman, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy, Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay. Bowlen and Richardson co-chair the NFL's 10-man labor committee, and Jones and Murphy serve on it, as do New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt and Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II, who attended last week's mediation.
The Brady class counsel in the Brady & Eller et al v. National Football League et al case was led by NFLPA outside counsel Jim Quinn and local counsel Barbara Berens, as well as Chiefs linebacker Mike Vrabel and Minnesota Vikings linebacker Ben Leber. NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith didn't participate in Tuesday's proceedings while dealing with a family medical emergency in the Washington, D.C., area, and NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler was in Japan handling a prior commitment with another client.
The Eller class counsel also was represented Tuesday, and the group's lead attorney, Michael Hausfeld, took exception with the idea that the sides involved in Minneapolis aren't taking this round of mediation seriously and rather are waiting for court rulings to determine the battlefield. Hausfeld produced, as evidence of the work, a 100-page paper that the Eller class prepared in response to the questions that Boylan asked the sides to answer over the weekend.
» Weeks | Teams | Primetime | Fans
» Diamond dozen: 12 games not to miss
» Super teams positioned for Super rematch?
» Pick Six: The ultimate 2011 NFL road trip
» Pats, Bears get break | Tough on Rams, Chiefs
» Several upstarts get prime time looks
» Schedule nuances carry real impact
» Overlooked games take on new meaning
» Could Newton face Gabbert in Week 1?
» Bears, Bucs set for 2011 Euro trip
» Clash of the Harbaugh brothers
» Early season NFC North showdown
» Can Rams topple Seahawks out West?
» Garrett talks about Cowboys' slate
"Over the weekend, we consulted with numerous individuals to prepare a response," said Hausfeld, who added that his team worked well into the last few nights to have it ready. "It has been given to the court to assist the court in making that evaluation and in having the parties understand the differences in position so that they could engage in a meaningful dialogue to reach these serious issues.
"This is no charade, this is no illusion. This is going to come to a resolution, either by the parties compromising and agreeing or by a judgment. And even with a judgment many times, there is then a discussion on how to compromise the judgment so there's not a winner-take-all situation. This takes time, and the court is doing everything within its power to get the parties to realize that."
Hausfeld did recognize truth in the perception that Nelson's ruling likely is just one step forward in what could be a very lengthy process. "There's no question that any ruling that Judge Nelson makes would be a first step," Hausfeld said. "It will be taken on appeal. There will be a request probably, if it's in favor of an injunction, to stay the ruling. And if she grants the injunction, it goes up to the 8th (U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals). The 8th Circuit has to decide whether to stay the ruling, if she doesn't stay the ruling, and then you have to wait for the 8th Circuit to make a decision.
"Most likely, there'll be a request by parties for an expedited hearing before the 8th Circuit, it's up to the 8th Circuit to grant that. In the interim, between Judge Nelson's decision and the 8th Circuit's decision, there's still more room to mediate and compromise and reach a resolution."
Hausfeld did say he sensed seriousness within the owners' group last week: "I think the owners fully appreciate the significance of the structural changes that would need to be made." Hausfeld called for the sides to remember people beyond those in the mediation room who will be impacted by what happens in this case in the coming weeks and months.
"I hope everyone in the room -- owners, active players, the rookie representatives and the retiree representatives -- understand that this is a situation that not only involves their interests, but also the interests of many fans and other people who depend upon the game being played," Hausfeld said. "And if everyone seriously approaches the issues in the manner in which the court has, then hopefully progress can be made."
and Soul that is why really hope this judge when she rules , does a king Solomen to both sides... Give a rulling that HURTS BOTH SIDES..ie say if no agreement by may 30th, 2011 will have 6 years to free agency( which hurts the players badly), and the owners will have to disclose every expense for the last 10 years( which we all know nothing would hurt them more)... This way BOTH SIDES feel the pain if keep jerking each other around with no clear winner. nd then can get a real deal
High Fives / Like - 1 High Fives, 0 Dislikes
I like the idea of Judge Nelson squeezing both of them as long as it's not me being squeezed. Been there, done that.
Originally Posted by dabears54