On March 1, Judge David Doty concluded that the NFL violated the now-expired Collective Bargaining Agreement by leaving on the table money that would have been shared when negotiating the latest national broadcast deals, opting instead to beef up language that would ensure ongoing payments to owners during a lockout, not all of which would be repaid.
On May 12, the case moves to the next phase — determining the consequences of the violation.
The briefs have been submitted; predictably, the NFL wants to pay nothing beyond the $6.9 million already given to the players at the behest of the Special Master for adding another Sunday night game to the NBC package in 2010 (the Steelers-Saints game that competed with the World Series) and the players want, as Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal told PFT Live earlier this week, anywhere from $600 million to $1 billion.
Kaplan also reported that the players have suggested that all NFL commercial contracts should be similarly scrutinized. Whether Judge Doty takes the bait remains to be seen, especially since the players didn’t raise this argument when making their claim in 2010, possibly preventing them from doing so now.
Albert Breer of NFL Network reported Wednesday via Twitter that outside counsel (and 2006 Commissioner finalist) Gregg Levy will lead the league’s delegation on Thursday. Though Commissioner Roger Goodell is not expected to attend, Breer reports that NFLPA* executive director DeMaurice Smith will be there.
The ultimate outcome will surely be review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, and any award of damages to the players will serve as even more leverage for getting a deal done. In the end, it could provide an opportunity for the NFL to funnel money to the players in 2011 beyond the salary cap, permitting the players’ total take for a year with reduced revenues to increase while allowing the two sides to craft a revenue-based salary-cap formula that would grow as the effects of the lockout subside.
Of course, that would assume an ability by the two parties to communicate effectively, to set aside the desire to build maximum leverage, and to actually give a crap about the long-term interests of the game. So, basically, it won’t happen.