The judge overseeing the legal dispute between NFL players and team owners over a new contract has urged lawyers for both sides to head back to the bargaining table, and has offered to send the case to federal mediation, Bloomberg reports.
At issue is an owner-imposed labor lockout, which the players had been seeking to end by way of court order.
After hearing arguments from both sides in St. Paul, Minn., U.S. District Court Judge Susan Richard Nelson declared that it could take weeks to decide whether to issue the order, and offered the court's services in reaching an agreement.
A possible work stoppage has grave implications for the TV networks carrying NFL licenses, and these consequences are only compounded a possible concurrent NBA player lockout.
“Both sides are at risk. This is a good time to come back to the table,” Nelson said. “This is really a matter to be resolved, in my view, with the services of the federal court.”
The lockout was imposed on March 11, after contract talks broke down and the NFL Players Association decertified. The players and owners are in disagreement over the formula by which the NFL divides its annual revenues — which amount to $9 billion each year.
NFL stars Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning led a consortium of current and retired players in a lawsuit to block the lockout when it began in March.
As reported earlier by TheWrap, the current NFL dispute, as well as a similar disagreement brewing in the National Basketball Association, could have disastrous results for the television industry, with billions of dollars in advertising revenue at risk.
Even if the football and basketball disputes should be resolved before their respective seasons begin, the networks could still be taking a hit — with the upfront season upon them, advertisers could opt to shift their dollars elsewhere if they feel that they'd be going into the next year with canceled or truncated sports seasons.