NFL players and owners agree to non-binding arbitration

I just saw something come across the sports news that the NFL players association and ownership has agreed to mediation.  What this means is a federal mediator will act as a go-between in an attempt to bring about a settlement.  Even though it is non-binding, from the fans perspective it could be a step in the right direction.
 
I will confess, this one caught me by surprise.  If one party suggests mediation, from a public relations perspective, it would seem to me the prudent thing to do would be to accept it.  Following is a quote from Fox news which indicates the mediation was initiated by the government, something either party would have difficulty turning down without facing the wrath of the public. It is interesting that the government has stepped in at this point.  My experience is that normally happens when the parties come to an impasse and the government steps in because a work stoppage would impact the general public.   This is the Fox news quote:
 
“After holding separate discussions with representatives from the league and the union, FMCS director George H. Cohen said both sides accepted an invitation from his agency to get involved in the stalled negotiations.”
 
A mediator is an independent arbiter, they do not represent either party; but rather they attempt to bring about an agreement that both parties can accept.  Normally there are two types of mediation, binding and non-binding.  The parties have opted for non-binding which is what one would expect.
 
I had one occasion personally where I was involved in litigation and a mediator was brought in and it was a very good experience.  The mediator will meet with both parties independently as well as have meetings with both parties in the room.  In something this complicated, likely the process will take quite some time with several meetings, each perhaps dealing with a separate issue.  If the independent meetings are anything like my experience you find yourself instinctively trying to sell the mediator your point of view…to which they will more than likely nod their head and say something to the effect of “I understand”. 
 
Once that process is complete the mediator has many options and, at least the one we dealt with was very well trained, and very, very good.  In a high profile negotiations like this one I cannot imagine anything but a veteran being assigned to the task.
 
One of the rules we also had was at any time either party could call “time out” and each side had a separate room where we could go in to in order to talk with our attorney privately.  Both sides took advantage of that opportunity. 
 
At this point all I can suggest it this should prove interesting.  It would not surprise me if the mediator put a total clamp on all parties as far as any comments in the press.  They could both come under some real negative publicity if they try to plead their case through the public if the arbiter invokes some sort of a gag rule like that.
 
From our perspective as fans, I see this as good news, if both parties deal in good faith they should certainly be able to come to an agreement long before it could cause a work stoppage.  I do not know if this will have any effect on the players decertifying the union and filing a lawsuit for anti-trust, or if it would cause the owners to postpone a lockout.  We will find out when the current deadline expires on March 3rd.
 
About the only past experience one can look at is the last labor negotiations between the owners of MLB and the players association.  Both parties were truly concerned about the possible backlash of a work stoppage and they agreed upon a deal at the last minute in order to avoid any more risk of losing their fans and customers.  Hopefully the NFL owners and players will realize the public has little sympathy when billionaires and millionaires are arguing over amounts of money that are beyond the scope of the average citizen.  Let’s all hope so.