The meidation ordered by Judge Susan Nelson began this week, under her direction with mediator Judge Arthur Boylan. Boylan, an experienced mediator, has been given 18 days to try to bring the NFL and it's players to some kind of agreement. This mediation differs from the first round of talks in that this is forced mediation, and the focus of the talks, as well as the number of participants for each side, is mandated by the court. While the negotiations are taking place, Judge Nelson will still weighing her decision over the legality of the owners locking out the players.
Unfortunately, the anticipation of that ruling may be the main hindrance to progress in mediation. While Judge Nelson has clearly warned the parties that one side will lose big in litigation, both sides are already heavily invested in the process, and might be awaiting that decision to determine the strength of the bargaining position. The loser of the decision will appeal of course, but it will still be a fair indicator of where they stand in the proceedings. It would be in every ones best interest for Nelson to rule on the lockout quickly so the parties can commit to the current mediation, rather than continue to hedge their bets.
There has been a gag order directed by the court, so the only things the league and player representatives are telling us, is the well-worn assurances about how much they want to have a 2011 season. This round of mediation may go a long way in telling us how sincere they truly are.