We’ve seen somewhere today a suggestion that the renewed talks between the NFL and the NFLPA* will continue until the Eighth Circuit issues a ruling on the appeal of Judge Nelson’s order lifting the lockout, and that after the ruling the shift in the leverage will help nail down a final deal.
That’s precisely what shouldn’t happen.
On multiple occasions, the NFL has said that it wants the next labor deal to be fair to both sides, so that neither the owners nor the players will feel compelled in two or three years to pull the plug and take a stand. The best way to craft a win-win agreement comes not after one side “wins” this critical phase of the legal proceedings, but before.
If they wait until there’s a clear winner and a clear loser on the question of whether the lockout will be lifted (and, despite Judge Kermit Bye’s admonition that neither side will like the ruling, there likely will be a clear winner and a clear loser), a win-win outcome will happen only if the clear winner decides to be uncharacteristically magnanimous. So the time to do a lasting deal is now, before the Eighth Circuit rules.
Mike Freeman of CBSSports.com mentioned on Twitter earlier today that “multiple sources” tell him a deal “could” be reached before the Eighth Circuit rules. Without question, it should be.
And to the extent that anyone fears the two sides are playing beat the clock, with a game-changing ruling from the Eighth Circuit springing up just as the parties close in on an accord, it’s safe to assume that the folks in St. Louis will be keeping tabs on the mediation process that has been coordinated by Judge Nelson. The court system always prefers the parties finding their own justice to imposing justice upon them, especially in high-profile cases like this one.