If you've been following the NFL labor negotiations closely (and we know you have), then you should be familiar with the name George Cohen. He's the federal mediator overseeing negotiations between the league and the players union. But what do we really know about him? Here's a crash course, FAQ style:
Does Cohen have any sports background?
Yes, actually plenty of it. Cohen was the lead lawyer for the MLB players union in 1995. He argued before U.S. District Judge Sonia Sotomayor on the day she issued an injunction, effectively ending the strike that had wiped out the 1994 World Series. He has also worked with the NBA players union and was on the NHL Players' Association advisory board until President Obama appointed him to be director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service last year.
Hmm. If Cohen repped the MLB union in court and advised the NHL union, isn't there a concern that he might be pro-labor?
The optics might suggest that, but Cohen has earned respect from management with his even-handed approach. "To be successful in his current role, the bargaining parties must accept him as a true neutral party," MLB executive VP Rob Manfred told the Associated Press. "Those who know George accept the fact that his integrity and his desire to help the process will cause him to act fairly, despite the fact that he previously represented unions."
We haven't heard much directly from Cohen during the NFL talks. Is this by design?
Cohen was up front about asking both sides to keep a low profile without issuing a gag order. At a press conference last month, he told reporters, "I am not going to answer any questions because were I to, I'd be violating my own policy."
Any words of wisdom from his past?
After helping Major League Soccer and its players agree on a five-year contract last winter, Cohen said the key was getting both sides to understand that "Western civilization does not hang in the balance."
What other labor issues has Cohen tackled in his career?
Cohen argued five cases in the U.S. Supreme Court and more 100 others in lower courts on matters ranging from collective bargaining to health and safety concerns in the workplace. In addition to sports, Cohen has also represented the interests of the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild.
Speaking of entertainment, is it true that Cohen's son is a big-time Hollywood producer?
Yes, Bruce Cohen produced "American Beauty," which won the Best Picture Oscar in 1999, and "Milk," which was nominated for Best Picture in 2008.
What is Cohen's personal background?
He was born in 1934 in Brooklyn. He received his undergraduate and law degrees from Cornell. He then earned a master's of law from Georgetown. After serving in the Army as a second lieutenant, Cohen began his legal career with the National Labor Relations Board in 1960. He retired in 2006 as a senior partner after 40 years with Bredhoff & Kaiser, a Washington firm that specializes in labor and constitutional law.