It was apparently a busy couple days for DeMaurice Smith, Roger Goodell, and an assorted group of NFL players and owners, who today concluded a secretive two-day mediation session in front of Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan, the federally-appointed mediator for league negotiations. Beginning Tuesday evening in the Chicago area, both sides met for court-mediated discussions throughout yesterday and today. Unfortunately, that’s about all we have to tell you.
At the conclusion of today’s session, players and owners issued a joint press release that is about as revealing as a Sudoku puzzle. Said the release:
“The parties met pursuant to court mediation. Owners and players were engaged in confidential discussions before Chief Magistrate Judge Boylan. The court has ordered continued confidentiality of the mediation sessions.”
Yeah. That’s it. Infer away, NFL fans. None of the two dozen reports (including this one) released this evening have had anything more to add in terms of specifics. Some optimistically have pointed out that “DeMaurice Smith gave a sign of two thumbs up from a limousine as he was driven away,” but, as we’ve already discussed here at ITI, De Smith is a crazy person. I wouldn’t put too much stock into his gestures.
Other reports have pointed out that there were no legal teams present at any of the negotiations, which doesn’t exactly mean anything, except that both sides are finally taking the negotiations seriously. The secrecy, the gag order, the lack of lawyers in attendance; these are the perfect conditions to foster honest, open communication. Instead of duking it out in the courts or in the papers, players and owners seem to have finally accepted the idea that progress will only come when all of the pointless sidegames and distractions are eliminated.
Then there were reports that the meetings were so secret that even some owners and player reps weren’t told about it. God knows what that means. I guess I could sit here and try to break it all down, issue my own opinion on What It All Means, but to be honest I don’t feel comfortable doing that. There’s just too little here to sink my teeth into.
Obviously, the simple fact that both sides have chosen to resume negotiations on their own – as opposed to being forced to by a federal judge – is good news, no matter how you spin it. But we still have no idea how those negotiations went, if either side is closer to accepting or proposing a new deal, or if they plan on meeting again any time in the near future.
The players’ antitrust suit against the league is set to begin tomorrow morning, with both sides slated to present their opening arguments before adjourning for the weekend. Needless to say, we probably won’t see any significant new developments until at least Monday. Unless good old Scheft can interrogate a few people and dig up a dirt clod or two before then. As always, we’ll make sure to keep you abreast of any new developments.