Judge backs NFL players in battle over TV money

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2011 - 6:43 AM

The fight over $4 billion is just one issue dividing the league and its players union.

hide

U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled late Tuesday afternoon that a special master committed several errors in considering whether the NFL violated its agreements with the players union in compiling $4 billion in additional television revenue meant to help the league offset the expected lockout.

A ruling by a federal judge in Minneapolis could derail NFL owners' plans to lock out players at the end of the week.

U.S. District Judge David Doty ruled late Tuesday afternoon that a special master committed several errors in considering whether the NFL violated its agreements with the players union in compiling $4 billion in additional television revenue meant to help the league offset the expected lockout.

Saying that the league breached its agreement, Doty ordered that a hearing be held to determine damages paid to the NFL Players Association, as well as the possibility of keeping the NFL from using the $4 billion should a lockout occur. The hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Doty's decision comes as the NFL and the NFL Players Association are locked in a high-stakes dispute over how to divvy up $9 billion in total revenues for the country's most popular spectator sport.

While Doty didn't tell the league that it can't spend its $4 billion, he ruled that the league's contracts with DirectTV, CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN breached its agreement with its players to use "good faith" in maximizing revenues to be shared by owners and players.

The hearing to determine damages will consider what the league will have to do to make things right. The special master had awarded nearly $7 million to the players. But, more important, his ruling allowed the owners to hold onto their $4 billion -- a move the players said funds a lockout. In a hearing last week, lawyers for the players union urged Doty to put that money in escrow to keep the league from using it to finance a lockout.

The question now is whether Doty's decision will affect ongoing contract negotiations between owners and players. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Doty's ruling doesn't sway talks either way.

"As we have frequently said, our clubs are prepared for any contingency, this decision included," he said. "Today's ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement."

It is unlikely that Doty's next decision -- on damages -- will come before a lockout could occur. The collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union expires at 11 p.m. Thursday. If a new agreement is not reached by then, the owners will institute a lockout. The NFL Draft would go on as scheduled in late April, but other offseason activities would not, and free agency would be delayed until a new agreement is struck.

Doty first heard the case Thursday. He has presided over cases involving the NFL, the players union and their collective bargaining agreements for the past 19 years. The league has previously alleged that Doty has a pro-union bias and sought to have him removed from cases.

The union had asked Doty to issue an injunction, setting aside the ruling by special master Stephen Burbank, who refused earlier this month to put the $4 billion in 2011 television revenue into escrow while the league and its players negotiate. Doty's ruling Tuesday does overturn Burbank's decision but puts off the fate of the $4 billion until later.

The NFLPA wants the TV money made off-limits until any lockout ends and to have part of the money refunded if the season is cut short. Union attorneys say the NFL plans to use that money to finance the lockout, giving team owners revenue even if games are not played in 2011. Tom Heiden, a lawyer for the union, called it "a war chest" that would be used as leverage against the players.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Oakland - J. Lester 7:07 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
New England 14 FINAL
Kansas City 41
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
NY Islanders 6:00 PM
Boston
NY Rangers 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Ottawa 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Carolina 7:00 PM
St. Louis
Tampa Bay 7:30 PM
Dallas
Colorado 8:00 PM
Calgary
Los Angeles 9:30 PM
San Jose
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Is it the right move to replace Ron Gardenhire?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close