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NBA owners, players heading to mediation Tuesday

Associated Press / October 13, 2011

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WASHINGTON - The NBA and its locked-out players are going to use the same federal mediator who tried to resolve the NFL’s labor dispute months before it eventually ended.

George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, announced yesterday he will oversee negotiations between the NBA and the NBA Players Association. Those meetings will start Tuesday in New York.

Cohen said he already has been in contact with representatives of both sides “for a number of months.’’

“I have participated in separate, informal, off-the-record discussions with the principals representing the NBA and the NBPA concerning the status of their collective bargaining negotiations,’’ Cohen said in a statement.

“It is evident that the ongoing dispute will result in a serious impact, not only upon the parties directly involved, but also, of major concern, on interstate commerce - i.e., the employers and working men and women who provide services related to the basketball games, and, more generally, on the economy of every city in which those games are scheduled to be played.’’

Cohen was present for talks between NFL owners and players for 16 days in February and March but couldn’t bring them to agreement. When that mediation broke off March 11, the union disbanded, players sued owners in federal court, and the league locked out players.

The NBA’s labor talks stalled Monday, and the league announced it was calling off the first two weeks of its regular season, which was supposed to begin Nov. 1.

The preseason was wiped out earlier.

Cohen was appointed director of the FMCS, an independent US government agency, by President Barack Obama in 2009. The next year, Cohen helped broker a deal between Major League Soccer and its players just before the season was scheduled to begin, earning kudos from both the commissioner and players’ union.

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