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A simple solution to the settlement negotiations impasse

Jeff Pash

Jef Pash, lead counsel for the NFL, speaks during a news conference at the NFL owners meetings in New Orleans, Monday, March 21, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)


It’s no surprise that two parties that have agreed only rarely of late currently disagree regarding something so simple as the format and context of ongoing efforts to negotiate a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

As it currently stands, the players have informed the league that talks may occur via the lawyers representing the class action lawsuit that was filed 11 days ago, after the NFLPA decertified as a labor union. The league refuses to negotiate a settlement of the lawsuit; instead, the NFL wants to return to the bargaining table, preferably under the auspices of federal mediator George Cohen.

Here’s how this logjam can easily be broken. NFL general counsel Jeff Pash should call Jeff Kessler, outside counsel for the NFLPA and one of the lawyers representing the players in their lawsuit, and offer to pick up the talks where they ended on March 11, with the same participants and in the same location. In turn, the NFL would commit in writing that the involvement of the NFLPA Executive Committee and/or NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith and/or other NFLPA advisors like Pete Kendall would not be used against the NFLPA to prove that the decertification of the union was a sham.

Of course, there’s a chance that Kessler and/or the NFLPA would ask for something more. But that shouldn’t happen. It’s a simple proposition -- the two sides press “play,” the dance continues from the point where it left off, and the NFL agrees not to run to the court in Minnesota or to the NLRB and say, “Look, here’s more proof that the union is still a union!”

It’s a quick fix, and the failure of the NFL to offer this approach tells us that, a week after the NFL seemed to be ready to get back to the table in the wake of the launching of the litigation strategy, the owners have decided to take their chances on April 6.

And so for the same reasons we called out the NFLPA last week, when it appeared that the players were dragging their feet, we now officially call out the league for not taking full advantage of the opportunity to get the situation resolved in the 15 days between now and the commencement of the hearing on the motion to lift the lockout.