NFL executive vice president Eric Grubman left little doubt that he felt that representatives from the players' groups suing the NFL on antitrust grounds had little desire to see an immediate negotiated settlement to the league's labor issue. In meeting with Associated Press Sports Editors and some reporters today at the league's New York headquarters, Grubman suggested the NFL was willing to negotiate, but not the players.
So when I asked Grubman about why Judge Arthur Boylan called for nearly a month-long break in his mediation between the two sides, he took the opportunity to express his disappointment in the lack of progress during the talks.
"Mediation is not negotiation unless both parties are willing to negotiate," he said. "Mediation is a series of appointments and then you find out during mediation whether there is a negotiation based on what the parties do. You can’t force people to negotiate if they don’t want to negotiate. If you want to litigate instead of negotiate, that is what you do."
And the NFL is willing to negotiate?
"The NFL is prepared to negotiate now and has been trying to negotiate for the past two years," he said. "If the union showed up, I bet I could find Roger Goodell, Jeff Pash, and the CEC to negotiate with them – and it wouldn’t take that long."
NFL Players Association spokesman George Atallah took issue with Grubman's remarks on several levels, including the fact that Grubman did not attend the mediation sessions in Minneapolis that are being supervised by Boylan.
"NFL owners decided to lock out the players and used NFL officials to do it," Atallah told Newsday. "Players want to lift that lockout so they can play football. Players take legal action only when NFL owners and officials do bad things that violate the law. A lockout is a bad thing for the players, the game and the fans. The NFL and the owners can lift it at anytime."
Atallah said he wouldn't get into the dynamics of the litigation because both sides were ordered to maintain confidentiality.
"The litigation settlement mediation is confidential," he said. "Anyone that characterizes it publicly violates that confidentiality. It is particularly reprehensible if those characterizations come from a dude that wasn't even there."
(Yes, Atallah referred to Grubman as "dude.")
"The NFL keeps peddling a public case for their lockout," he said, "that is intended to harm and divide everyone associated with the NFL community."