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NFL, Players Break From Talks Ahead of Judge’s Lockout Ruling

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April 21 (Bloomberg) -- The National Football League and its players suspended talks on a new labor accord for almost a month while they await a federal judge’s ruling on a request to end the lockout.

Players’ and owners’ representatives met four times over the past two weeks in Minneapolis with the mediator, Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan, under orders from U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“We’re going to be back here on May 16 to continue the mediation,” James Quinn, outside counsel for the players, said as he left yesterday’s meeting, according to video comments posted on NFL.com. “Everybody believes that it was helpful.”

Jeff Pash, executive vice president and general counsel for the league, said Boylan’s contributions are moving the sides toward a conclusion.

“This was a valuable process. I don’t think a single minute of it was wasted time,” Pash said on NFL.com. “We’ll be back here ready to make a deal; that’s the only way we’re going to solve this problem.”

Before the players and owners meet again, Nelson is expected to rule on the players’ lawsuit to end the lockout.

Quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees led a group of 10 NFL players who sued the league on March 11 after negotiations on a new labor contract ended without agreement. The players moved to decertify their union and owners declared a lockout. Players claim the league’s policies violate U.S. antitrust laws.

No Jurisdiction

The 32-team league says the court doesn’t have jurisdiction over the dispute, which the owners say should be resolved by the National Labor Relations Board.

Nelson told the players and owners on April 6 that she would need a couple of weeks to issue a ruling.

U.S. District Judge David Doty will preside over a hearing on May 12 in Minneapolis on the use of $4 billion in television money. Doty overturned an arbitrator’s decision by ruling that the league improperly negotiated the rights fees.

“The network case is not a major factor, never has been a major factor as far as our thinking goes,” Pash said.

The league two days ago issued a schedule of games for the 2011-12 season, while the NFL Draft is set to proceed on April 28.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Kercheval in Washington at nkercheval@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net

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