The federal judge overseeing the dispute between NFL owners and players Monday ordered the sides to participate in mediation to help resolve the work stoppage that threatens the coming season.
U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson ordered the players’ attorneys and their former union’s executive director, DeMaurice Smith, to meet Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis with veteran Chief Magistrate Arthur J. Boylan, who is scheduled to meet with the owners’ representatives Wednesday and preside over face-to-face mediation with both sides starting Thursday.
Nelson ordered that both sides keep the mediation confidential. The sides tried mediation before, negotiating for 16 days in Washington with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George Cohen. Those talks ended March 11, allowing the collective bargaining agreement to expire.
Spokesmen for the owners and players didn’t immediately comment on Nelson’s ruling. The judge wrote in her three-page order that the mediation was a form of “alternative dispute resolution” to address the players’ antitrust lawsuit (Brady vs. NFL) against the league.
While owners’ attorneys have declared that mediation is most effectively done over the sides’ collective-bargaining disagreements, the players argue that working to settle the lawsuit filed by star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and others is the best route to strike labor peace.
The former NFL Players Association decertified last month, and the players’ group has expressed concern that anything other than lawsuit settlement talks would allow the owners to bolster their claim that decertification was a sham.
In her order, Nelson assured the players, “the fact of participation in this Court-ordered mediation ... shall not be admitted or used against any party in any other proceeding or forum, for any purpose.”
Nelson continues to weigh whether to impose a preliminary injunction against the owners’ lockout of the players after hearing arguments in her courtroom last week. She urged the sides to engage in mediation at the end of that hearing, but neither side moved significantly to do so.
The judge wrote in her order that the lockout injunction “remains under advisement, with an order to issue in due course.”
SUPER BOWL STILL OK
The NFL lockout is not slowing down work for next year’s Super Bowl.
Host committee chairman Mark Miles said organizers intend to be ready for the game to be played Feb. 5 in Indianapolis and have not been distracted by the league’s labor predicament.
Miles is monitoring the legal proceedings and he believes nothing will be settled until at least July. He also says it is possible exhibition or regular season games could be canceled.
‘NOT A GOLD-DIGGER’
The former New York Jets game hostess who allegedly received inappropriate photos and phone messages from Brett Favre said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos that she isn’t a “gold-digger” and hasn’t “made a dime” off the scandal.
“I haven’t made a dime off anything in this whole situation,” Jenn Sterger said in the interview that will air on “Good Morning America” today and Wednesday and “Nightline” tonight. “Not from the pictures. Not from Favre. I never wanted to sue anyone. That was never an intention of mine. I’m not a gold-digger. The only way I wanted to make my money this whole time was to just have a job.”
In December, the NFL concluded its investigation of Favre by fining him $50,000 fine for failing to cooperate with the process.
COACH PLEADS GUILTY
Baltimore offensive line coach Andy Moeller, son of former Michigan coach Gary Moeller, has pleaded guilty to a charge of driving while intoxicated, but he will not have to serve time in jail.