As the negotiations between the NFL and the players’ union head toward an implosion, there’s one man who’s in position to try to get this thing back on track.
We’ve read great things in the media about the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, but we’re far from impressed by his inability to get the two sides to honor the vow of silence that he requested when the process began. If he can’t get them to respect that one specific wish, we can only wonder how things are unfolding behind closed doors. Though he has few options since he has no power, he comes off now as an impotent observer to an inevitable collapse in the negotiations.
That’s why the two sides need to get someone else involved, if they’re serious about working this out. And if the NFL genuinely is interested in doing a deal and genuinely convinced that the NFLPA is stonewalling in the hopes of justifying litigation, the NFL should suggest asking Judge David Doty to mediate.
Federal judges will from time to time serve as mediators in the cases they handle, and Doty is in position to demand silence and impose consequences if silence isn’t maintained. He also will be able to spot any intransigence or other shenanigans. The fact that the league has accused Doty of bias would make a proposal by the league to use Doty seem to reflect a genuine desire to get something accomplished.
For now, Cohen has one more chance. And he needs to pay close attention to what the two sides are saying. We’ve detected a high level of frustration from the union side based on the fact that players had no chance to speak to or with the cluster of owners who arrived on Thursday. It would be wise for the mediator to spot their anxiety and to recommend a 60-to-90 minute session, during which the players can vent and the owners would listen (or at least pretend to listen). That simple gesture could take a lot of the steam out of the room, and perhaps set the stage for real progress.
We’ll know more soon about whether Cohen or anyone else will stand up and display real leadership in this delicate time for the nation’s dominant sport.