NFL Settlement Talks | Are You Ready for Some Arbitration?

By Brett Goodman

Now more than ever, arbitration may have the potential to affect millions of lives, even if that means encouraging Americans to enjoy chips and dip and play Monday morning quarterback. With approximately a month left until NFL preseason games should begin, the NFL owners and the NFL players’ association (NFLPA) remain in a lockout. Though a so-called deadline has passed on more than one occasion without effect, at the very least, the players and teams would need probably no less than three weeks to prepare for a full season that is scheduled to begin at the beginning of September. So if things are not settled within the next two months, this may mean a year without Super Bowl parties, Chad Ochocinco/Johnson end zone celebrations, and Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders.

The litigation is currently ongoing in the Eighth Circuit, wherein oral arguments over the lockout fiasco ended on Friday June 3rd. At the same time, owners and players are having sets of “secret meetings” with the goal of peacefully resolving the issues before any sort of court-ordered alternative dispute resolution measure is enacted. Although conduct of the judges thus far indicates a potential siding with the owners, more than anything, the judges are encouraging a self-imposed settlement between the two sides independently.

If the owners do end up winning, the lockout could continue for as long as the owners please. “The players could appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. It is doubtful it would accept the case, and even if it did, it wouldn’t be heard for some time.” Whether or not one agrees with the vast resources and time that were pumped-in to the investigations of steroids in baseball with the famous testimonies of Roger Clemens and Rafael Palmeiro, it seems even less arguable that the Supreme Court would be spending its time wisely dealing with the NFL labor arbitration. Regardless, Judge Kermit Bye warned that, in the absence of an independent settlement, the court will offer a ruling that is “probably something both sides aren’t going to like.”

Within the next few months, the arbitration attempts of the owners and players will act as a relatable, real-world example of how alternative dispute resolutions can either be an effective way of avoiding litigation and saving resources, or how the stubbornness of both sides leads to court orders and undesirable results. It will also either act as a small bump on the road to 6-hour couch-ridden Sundays, or doing the same just on a different channel.

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Brett Goodman is a summer intern at Karl Bayer, Dispute Resolution Expert. Brett is a J.D. candidate at The University of Texas School of Law. He holds degrees in Finance, Mathematics, and Spanish from Southern Methodist University.

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