The NFL has prevailed as to the thrust of the effort by the players’ union to block network payments to the league during a work stoppage. But the union has scored a partial victory in connection with its argument that the league violated the labor deal by securing the ongoing payments during a period of no football in lieu of seeking larger total payments in period of no lockout or strike.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, the union secured an award of $6.9 million.
Because the written ruling has been placed under seal (which means that it’s being kept secret, not that an oceanic mammal is laying on top of it), it’s presently impossible to analyze the details of the ruling in order to understand why a portion of the union’s argument was deemed to be successful.
Said the union in a statement: “The Special Master, who is appointed by a federal judge, found violations of the [Collective Bargaining Agreement] with respect to the NFL’s negotiation of Lockout Insurance in its contracts with ESPN and NBC. Although the Special Master awarded damages, the players intend to file an immediate and expedited appeal before the federal court in Minnesota.”
Since the appeal will be resolved by U.S. Judge David Doty and in light of the fact that the league previously has attempted to disqualify Judge Doty from presiding over the labor deal based on allegations that he unfairly favors the union, the league could still see its $4 billion revenue stream for a lost season of football blocked. For now, the NFL doesn’t seem to be concerned about that possibility.
“As we have said all along, a new CBA has to be hammered out at the negotiating table, not in the courtroom,” the league said in a statement. “If the union commits to invest as much time, energy and other resources in negotiations as it has in its litigation strategy, a new agreement could well be reached by March 4. The Special Master squarely rejected the union’s demand that the NFL be denied access to payments that the league’s television partners are obligated to make for the 2011 season. We understand that the union intends to appeal the Special Master’s decision, but we are confident that his detailed ruling on this issue will be affirmed. Now it’s time to get back to the bargaining table.”
They’ll return to the bargaining table with the league preserving the enormous leverage that comes from allowing owners like Jerry Jones to pay the mortgage on their stadiums with television money.
We (PFT not NBC) continue to see the basic wisdom and appeal of the notion that the league has an obligation to maximize the revenue, since the players receive 59.6 cents of every dollar earned (after roughly $1 billion comes off the top for expenses). As a practical matter, the league could have gotten more money for the rights fees by sacrificing the provision that ensures ongoing payments to the owners if a lockout or a strike occurs. By seeking the “lockout insurance” instead of maxing out the dollars paid, the league failed to get as much money as possible for the owners and players to share.