As Albert Breer of NFL Network reported last night, Commissioner Roger Goodell and “some of the owners” would be present for court-ordered mediation commencing on Thursday.
“Some” turned out to be four. Out of 32.
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello’s Twitter page, the four owners in attendance are Chiefs owner Clark Hunt, Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, and Steelers owner Art Rooney.
Notably absent from the league’s negotiating team? Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, and Giants co-owner John “Jury Duty” Mara.
With only a handful of owners present, it’s critical that they have in their pockets the ability to make binding decisions on behalf of their brethren. In a league where 24 “yes” votes are needed to act on issues like the labor deal, they need to be more than the messengers who are carrying a predetermined list of terms to which the owners will agree. The owners who are present must have the ability to punch through whatever the owners collectively have decided to do. If Hunt, Kraft, Richardson, and Rooney don’t have that ability, then the league technically is in violation of Judge Nelson’s order requiring the presence of a representative with “full authority.”
It won’t be an issue unless the players’ lawyers make it an issue. And they likely will make it an issue only if it appears that the four owners in attendance aren’t serious about trying to work things out.