NFL names local lawyer Christopher Droney league arbitrator. The former federal judge will settle all salary, contract disputes

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The NFL has appointed local lawyer Christopher Droney as the league’s arbitrator, a position in which he is responsible for resolving all contractual employment and salary disputes between players and the league.

Droney, a former federal judge, U.S. Attorney and mayor of West Hartford, said the league approached him about the position two months ago and, after meetings with both player and owner representatives, he was offered the job and accepted it last week.

“I’m excited about it and I’m looking forward to it,” Droney said Tuesday. “It is a fascinating opportunity.”

He will be the league’s second system arbitrator, replacing Stephen Burbank, who is leaving the NFL after about a decade and concentrating exclusively on his professorship at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Burbank became well-known among fans for his work toward resolving the collusion case against the NFL by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who claimed he was blacklisted from pro football for kneeling during the national anthem.

The league arbitrator isn’t a full-time position and Droney said he will continue to work as a partner in the Hartford office of Day Pitney.

In his work for the NFL, Droney said he expects to be called in on an ever expanding range of salary and contractual disputes, which can range from disagreements over salary cap calculations to free agency to setting salaries for franchise players. All arbitration cases will be resolved using the 400-page collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners.

Droney said his decision can be appealed to a committee of two judges and a third person, all of whom also are selected by the players and owners. Whatever the committee decides is final.

Arbitration hearings take place in New York or Washington, where the league and players have their respective offices, he said.

Droney said all arbitration cases are confidential under the collective bargaining agreement, but his decisions are public.

Droney was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit by President Barack Obama on Dec. 1, 2011, and sat on the court for eight years until returning to private law practice last year.

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