Judge Doty slams NFL owners in decision

The judge’s ruling against the NFL owners this week appears to be responsible for the two sides extending the Collective Bargaining Agreement expiration date as they try to hash things out. In a 28-page decision, U.S. District Court Judge David Doty blistered the league for breaching its obligation to negotiate in good faith on behalf of itself and the NFL Players Association when revenue is on the line. What to do with those $4 billion in revenue is now under consideration by Doty, with input from both sides.

The TV networks who agreed to advance $4 billion to the NFL for the 2011 season broadcast rights even if no games were played seemed to have caved in to “take it or leave it” tactics from the NFL.

The terms of the current CBA dictate the method of sharing the big pot of revenue that was last estimated at $9 billion a year. According to Judge Doty, it should and would have been more, if the league didn’t require the payments during the term of a lockout and that is good news for the players and NFLPA.

Doty’s ruling included the following language:

“The record shows that the NFL undertook contract renegotiations to advance its own interests and harm the interests of the players.”

Doty added a quote from a statement found in the documents submitted for review on the matter, made by an unnamed TV executive close to the matter:

“You know you’ve reached the absolute limits of your power as a major network…[when] the commissioner of the National Football League calls you… and says … we’re done, pay this or move on…”

Doty also said at least three networks expressed “some degree of resistance to the lockout payments” and DirecTV would have considered paying more in 2009-2010 “to have the possibility of a lockout/work stoppage go away.

The NFLPA now have Doty as a third party confirming underhand dealings have been done by the owners and league; a third party player who has the authority to keep the money out of the hands of the owners. The question as to what damages the union will be awarded is on the table along with how the $4 billion gets handled.

A starting point for calculating the damages would be the extra fees DirecTV was willing to pay in 2009, when the negotiations took place. That would have been split under the current revenue sharing arrangement with a bit under 60% going to the players. That doesn’t take into account money from the other networks who may have done the same.

In the meantime, the two sides continued to meet with a federal mediator after extending their deadline yesterday to go to tonight at 11:59PM. If the two sides cannot come to an agreement or at least agree to another extension going past tonight, then expect the union to disband so they can retain antitrust counsel and seek an injunction against the expected lockout.

Used with permission of the author.

Paula Duffy is a national sports columnist for Examiner.com and the Huffington Post and regularly comments on sports/legal matters for radio affiliates of ESPN and Fox Sports. She founded the sports information site, Incidental Contact, is the author of a line of audio books designed for sports novices and in her spare time practices law in Los Angeles.

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