Forgotten in the four-plus weeks of two-days-or-so-per-week talks has been the fact that two courts are holding in their back pockets (if black robes indeed have pockets) rulings that could potentially alter in significant ways the dynamics of the negotiations.
We’ve firmly believed that the primary role of U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan over the past month has been to funnel information to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, which eventually will (in theory) rule on the effort to lift the lockout, and Judge David Doty, who eventually will issue a ruling requiring the owners to pay the players 59 percent of the value of the money left on the table when the owners traded increases rights fees for lockout insurance. With continuous progress, neither court has issued a ruling, even though the appeal of Judge Susan Nelson’s order lifting the lockout supposedly has been expedited in all other respects.
We’re now starting to think, with mounting evidence of the talks sputtering, that it’s time for both courts to drop the gavel.
Otherwise, the talks will continue, even as they sputter. The players, who walked away from the table in March to widespread criticism, can’t afford to do it again. The owners likewise don’t want to be perceived as abandoning the process.
Thus, there’s only one way to shake things up. Actually, two ways. A ruling from the Eighth Circuit, and a ruling from Judge Doty.
Before that happens, Judge Boylan should stand up and tell the two sides that if they don’t have a deal by Tuesday, July 5, he’s going to give both courts the green light.
What, the owners and players don’t want to work through the Fourth of July weekend? Too bad. Plenty of other people will be working this weekend on jobs far less important than saving the football season.