Smith to attend NFL mediation session
Attorneys for the NFL met with the federal judge overseeing court-ordered mediation on Wednesday, one day before the first talks between the league and its locked-out players since the middle of last month.
Executive vice president Jeff Pash, the NFL's lead negotiator, was in attendance along with other NFL officials and outside counsel. They declined comment before sitting down with U.S. Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan. Lawyers for the players met with Boylan for about four hours Tuesday.
The two sides are scheduled to be in the same room with Boylan on Thursday, the first face-to-face meetings since the collective bargaining agreement expired March 11, the union was dissolved and the NFL wound up with its first work stoppage since the monthlong strike in 1987.
Larger contingents are expected when mediation begins. NFL Players Association executive DeMaurice Smith is expected to attend, after withdrawing from a speaking event at Wake Forest in North Carolina so he could be in Minnesota. The NFLPA, dissolved by a vote of the players, is now a trade association and not an organized labor union.
Smith, an attorney, was formally added to the players' legal team last week so he could take part in the mediation.
Boylan has a reputation as a problem-solver, though what he can accomplish after more than two weeks of mediated talks fell short last month in Washington remains to be seen. He has been a magistrate since 1996 and presided over numerous mediations, including a $195 million settlement between Boston Scientific and about 4,000 claims involving heart defibrillators and pacemakers made by Guidant Corp. in 2007.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson, who ordered the mediation, is still considering an injunction request from the players to lift the lockout imposed by the owners. Players including MVP quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning filed the injunction request along with a pending class-action antitrust suit against the league. The lawsuit has been combined with two other similar claims from retirees and a college player.