In what National Football League players view as a victory, the U. S. District Court Judge Susan Nelson has ordered the NFL and the legal representatives of the players who initiated a legal action against the League to participate in court-supervised mediation. The mediation will begin on April 14th before Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan at his Minneapolis courthouse office. Judge Boylan will meet preliminarily with the players’ representatives today and the NFL representatives tomorrow.

The parties previously attempted to utilize mediation to resolve this dispute, negotiating for 16 days in Washington D.C. with Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George Cohen. The mediation efforts ended on March 11 and resulted in the expiration of the collective bargaining agreement between the parties and the beginning of the litigation of the dispute between the NFL players and owners.

At the initial injunction hearing to enjoin the owners’ lockout, Judge Nelson urged both sides to get “back to the table.” She has indicated that she would take “a couple of weeks” to rule on the players’ injunction request. She further stated that her order to resume mediation “will not have the effect of a stay on this litigation,” and that she will rule “in due course.”

Judge Nelson added:

The fact of participation in this Court-ordered mediation, and any communications conveyed between the parties, shall not be admitted or used against any party in any other proceeding or forum, for any purpose.

This mediation order is being viewed by many as a “victory” for the players as the NFL desired to return to Director Cohen in Washington D.C. to continue the mediation efforts. The players were concerned that the mediation sessions would be viewed as the NFLPA returning to formal union status, rather than remaining as a self-imposed trade association. As Judge Nelson’s order also eliminated the future use by either party of the mediation sessions and any resulting communications, this concern was effectively eliminated.