Report: Players wanted to return to the negotiating table but owners declined

The NFL logo is seen on a trailer parked near the New Meadowlands Stadium where the New York Jets and New York Giants NFL football teams play home games in East Rutherford, New Jersey, March 14, 2011. The NFL has officially announced a lockout of players by team owners following the move by the players’ union to dissolve themselves and pursue court action against the league. REUTERS/Mike Segar (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL BUSINESS)

According to ESPN’s John Clayton in his latest Q&A, the players wanted to return to the negotiating table on March 28, but the owners declined. Apparently the owners refuse to negotiate unless the players recertifiy as a union.

Q: I am a corporate attorney, and I have seen (and been part of) settlement negotiations while litigation is taking its course. Why can’t one or more attorneys for players (if not for the NFLPA, then for some of the named litigants) negotiate with the attorneys for the owners right now? At least in California, settlement negotiations cannot be used in trial, so I see no reason why negotiations could not be going on right now. In any event, isn’t the real problem the refusal of the owners to provide full financial information?

Ed in Aladena, Calif.

A: You are 100 percent correct. Lawyers for the owners refuse to meet with the settlement attorneys for the players unless the trade association identifies itself as a union, which the players won’t do at this time. The players, according to multiple sources, planned to meet with the owners March 28 and spend the week settling this mess. All that had to be done was have a short document go to federal judge Susan Nelson’s court saying that the NFLPA’s executive board would serve as advisors. The NFL’s answer was no. This will be the only way a deal can be reached. Like you, we all wish both sides would go to the bargaining table instead of the courts.

As a fan, it’s frustrating to hear that one side was ready to head back to the bargaining table and the other refused. The quickest way to a resolution is at the negotiating table – not in the courts.

But the owners must believe they have the leg up now that union-friendly Judge David S. Doty is not overseeing the players’ injunction hearing on April 6. As points out, if Judge Susan Nelson fails to grant the injunction, then the leverage swings heavily in the owners’ favor. So why would they return to the bargaining tables now? So that they can put an end to this charade and the fans can have a season next year? That’s not what the owners want. They want more money (and in the process, the players to have less of it), which is one of the many reasons why the NFL is currently in this mess.

The momentum has shifted several times over the past couple of months and it appears as though each side is waiting for the other to eventual crumble. Meanwhile, the fans continue to wait.

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