On various prior occasions this year, the NFL and the players have gotten together for mediation. Previously, each meeting was met with a sense of optimism, albeit increasingly muted.
This team around, as the parties return to Minnesota today for further negotiations with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan presiding, no one is thinking that any progress will be made. Many simply aren’t even paying attention.
And for good reason. The two sides seem to be committed to waiting for a ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, with the players and the league equally confident they’ll win.
The players knew the decertification-litigation chaos strategy would, if successful, end the lockout and allow the players to continue negotiations while operating from a position of ultimate strength — preventing the league from twisting the players’ arms until they accept the owners’ terms. If that approach fails, the players will be required to return to the drawing board and devise a plan for digging in and missing game checks in order to have a hint of leverage at the bargaining table.
For the owners, losing at the Eighth Circuit means the doors will be forced open (assuming the unlikely complete shutdown option isn’t pursued), and the owners will have to decide on a set of rules for 2011, knowing that any rules other than the Thunder Road approach (i.e., “the rules are there ain’t no rules”) will be challenged as a violation of the antitrust laws.
Each side seems to have accepted the risk of losing, while still pushing for victory. It’s their right to approach the situation this way, but it makes mediation at this point a complete waste of everyone’s time.