Judge David Doty, who didn’t want to settle football’s labor impass
NEW YORK (AP) _ Judge David Doty, who didn’t want to settle football’s labor impasse, now may be forced to because the players and owners are at odds again.
According to sources involved in the dispute, Doty spoke to the two sides by telephone on Thursday and summoned them to meet with him in Minnesota next week, probably on Tuesday.
He then could issue a decision on free agency or urge them to try again to settle the five-year-old dispute that seemed to be on the brink of settlement.
There was no official comment from the office of Doty, the U.S. district judge who presided at the trial last summer at which limited Plan B free agency was thrown out by a jury.
But Wednesday night, reached at home after the talks broke off, he said:
″I’ve been with these cases since 1987 and nothing is either expected or surprises me about what happens with them. We’ll just go ahead and do what we were planning to do, at any rate.″
Thursday was a day of dueling news releases and the players, in a statement issued in the name of chief negotiator Jim Quinn, accused ″hard-line owners″ of killing a deal he had made with commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Dan Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the owners’ negotiating commitee. The two who apparently played the biggest role were representatives of the two Los Angeles teams - Al Davis of the Raiders and John Shaw of the Rams.
The league, meanwhile, said the players had broken off negotiations, not the owners.
According to sources, Doty summoned not only the lawyers for both sides but also the negotiators - including Tagliabue and Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association. That gave the NFL some indication that Doty might ask them to try to negotiate the settlement to which they were so close.
According to both sides, they had agreed on a free agency after four years with a salary cap and a certain number of protected players.
However, there were still differences over the length of the contract and over what both agreed was the stickiest issue - the length of time a player could be a free agent.
The owners offered three months - from Feb. 1 to April 1, then from May 1 to June 1. They insisted that would allow teams to stablilize their rosters before going to training camp.
The players said they were willing to allow players to belong only to their teams during training camp but said they should be allowed to pursue all options before and after.
Moreover, while agreeing that the issue had come up since the framework was announced, each blamed the other.