League, union trade mild barbs over Doty ruling

Earlier today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled that Judge David Doty will continue to preside over the labor agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, rejecting an effort by the league to remove Doty.

The development is testing the tenuous truce that arose last week, when the league and the union agreed to stop the public posturing and bickering regarding the effort to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“Our focus is on negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with the players and the court’s decision should not impact the negotiations in any way,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told us via e-mail.  “The Eighth Circuit’s opinion also upheld the district court’s bonus forfeiture ruling in large part because it found the CBA forfeiture provision ambiguous.  That is something that we will seek to change at the bargaining table to ensure that bonus payments are paid to players who comply with their contracts and perform on the field.”

As to the first part of Aiello’s statement, we agree with him — only if the league doesn’t try to obtain via the bargaining process that which it was not able to achieve through the court system.  If, obviously, the league would ask the union to agree to a new judge (or no judge at all), the NFL would have to make an equivalent concession.

Meanwhile, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah is stirring the pot, Twitter style.  Regarding today’s ruling, Atallah says the “8th circuit decision means NFL is not above the law.  NFL filed to extinguish courts’ oversight and were told no.”

Frankly, the ruling doesn’t mean the NFL “is not above the law,” and the NFL wasn’t trying to behave (in this instance) as if it is “above the law.”  It only means that, in this specific case, Judge Doty had not done enough to warrant his removal.  But as we pointed out earlier today, the appeals court explained that Judge Doty would have been wise to say nothing publicly about the issues he has handled in connection with the NFL and the players union.

Atallah also twists the league’s tail, with a partial quote from the written opinion:  “A motion to recuse should not be withheld as a fallback position to be asserted only after an adverse ruling.”

Look, we aren’t going to avoid a work stoppage in 2011 if the two primary parties in this relationship can’t resist the urge to act like 12-year-olds when the score a victory in court, or elsewhere.  Aiello’s words are fine — we asked him for a comment and he gave us one.  The next time the union scores a win, however, Atallah would be wise to opt for the high road.