Even when the NFL's players and owners agree, they disagree.
As the lockout hits the one-month mark, each side expressed the willingness to return to mediation. Division remains in who should mediate the talks and where they should take place.
For two years, the two sides remained far apart on the core revenue issues that led to the lockout on March 12. This is yet another sign that they aren't close to solving their impasse.
At the end of Wednesday's hearing in federal court in St. Paul, Minn., Judge Susan Nelson suggested the court oversee the talks and added she "would be glad to facilitate" the negotiations if both sides agreed.
Thursday, a release from NFLPA headquarters in Washington, said, "The class of NFL players wrote to Judge Susan Nelson today, embracing her recommendation to participate in mediation under the oversight of the federal court of Minnesota.
"Though the injunction to lift the owners' lockout remains under Judge Nelson's consideration, the players took to heart her advice given during Wednesday's hearing that the two sides should not delay to meet. The players expressed their hope that mediation under court oversight will begin immediately."
The NFL responded by saying, "Our letter to the players' attorneys today proposes negotiations with owner involvement under the supervision of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen. A copy has been sent to Judge Nelson. The goal of the discussions would be to resolve all outstanding issues and achieve a global resolution. As part of our proposal, we offered to give the players assurances that they will not compromise any legal position as a result of the discussions."
This result is no different than a little-publicized exchange that occurred last month when players' attorneys James Quinn and Jeffrey Kessler wrote to league attorney Gregg Levy on March 21 saying "it has come to our attention" that commissioner Roger Goodell and attorney Jeff Pash had talked about a willingness to discuss "resolution of the issues involved in the Brady action."
The following day, Levy responded by writing, "Your characterization of public comments by Commissioner Goodell and Jeff Pash is not correct. They have both stated publicly that the NFL is prepared to continue negotiations with the NFLPA over the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. The NFL has no interest in discussing with you, as counsel for Mr. Brady and his co-plaintiffs, a litigation settlement. When the NFLPA is prepared to continue collective bargaining negotiations, please let us know."
Following Wednesday's hearing, league attorney David Boies said, "Their preferred approach has always been litigation. Our preferred approach has always been mediation and negotiation. I don't think it is surprising that as we walk out this courthouse, neither one of us have changed their approach.
"Whether or not we can work something out over the next couple of weeks? Maybe we can. But I would not read too much into it. We are still saying we would like to see a football season, we would like to have mediation, we would like to solve this situation at the bargaining table. They are saying they want to litigate. That is where we have been."
The NFL's end game goes much deeper than a dispute over who would mediate negotiations. It all goes back to the 1993 settlement of the players' Reggie White lawsuit after the league lost the case in front of a jury. The settlement resulted in a CBA, but Judge David Doty has presided over the settlement for the last 18 years.
That is what the league is seeking to avoid, and they have not tried to hide their motive.
In the days after the lockout began, Pash told the New York Times, "Discussions that take the form of a litigation settlement have as their ultimate disposition an agreement overseen by a court. We are not interested in that. That is how we got where we are now.
"We are interested in a collective bargaining agreement, just as every other sports league has a collective bargaining agreement. Only in collective bargaining can we address the full range of issues that need to be resolved between the union and the NFL clubs."
It is believed Judge Nelson on Wednesday mentioned a time frame of two weeks to make a decision in order to see what would happen with her "urging." Should she see no movement, it's possible she could order the league to discuss a settlement in federal court or issue a ruling earlier than two weeks.
The next move could be hers.
NFL, players disagree on mediation details
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