Judge Susan Nelson has yet to render a decision on the anti-trust case she heard arguments on April 6th saying instead that a decision would come in a couple of weeks. She also gave no indication on whether she was inclined to find for the players and thus ending the lockout pending appeal or with the owners thus acknowledging that the decertification was a sham.
So why should fans have hope? Simple, Judge Nelson is ordering both sides back to the mediation table.
The owners and players met with federal mediator George Cohen for 17 days before talks broke off and the union decertified. Depending on which side you believe, the sides were only a couple hundred million apart when the players walked the decertification route. By forcing the two sides back to the table of negotiations, she is bringing them that much closer to an agreement.
The reality is that both sides want to negotiate but neither side wants to give in to the other in terms of where and how those mediated negotiations will take place. Now, they simply have to adhere to the orders of a Judge which means neither side will lose face with the others. Consider it like the Republicans Vs. Democrats in the federal budget non-sense.
While there is still a lot more to get done between both sides, the process will now put them back into a face to face. No one has yet been told who will mediate the actual negotiations but that decision will now be made by a third party, Judge Nelson, rather than one of the actual parties involved in the litigation or the grandstanding attorneys. Furthermore, the judge will have knowledge of all mediated meetings and can guide the two sides towards an agreement.
Either way, this is the much needed step to bringing an end to the labor issues and put the sides into an agreement that will allow the NFL to move forward with another CBA. It will also put the litigation on the back burner in some respect as the case will be more defined by what transpires in those negotiations as opposed to an outright decision that would go immediately to appeal.
For now, the only side that has won anything, a small victory at that, is the fans.