Posted by Josh Katzowitz
In yet another twist to the labor dispute, the NFL owners took a back-hand from U.S. District Judge David Doty today when he overruled special master Stephen Burbank and said the league could not have access to the TV network money for next season.
Doty ruled that Burbank had made several mistakes in his ruling from last month in which he said the NFL hadn’t violated the CBA with its “lockout insurance” deal with the networks, which would still pay the league about $4 billion even if there are missed games in 2011.
Instead, Doty said the league had breached the CBA and ordered a hearing to determine the damages accrued by the NFLPA. Doty also could – and probably will – keep that $4 billion from the owners if a lockout occurs. All along, the NFLPA has asked that the amount be kept in escrow.
Wrote Doty in his ruling: "The court overrules the special master's findings as to the NFL's breach of the SSA relating to its contracts with DirecTV, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN, and holds that the NFL breached the SSA as to those contracts.”
Here’s the NFL’s statement, via Greg Aiello: "As we have frequently said, our clubs are prepared for any contingency, this decision included. Today's ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement."
Doty has ruled on NFL labor disputes for the past two decades, and the owners desperately want him off the case, because they think he’s pro-union. Today’s ruling certainly won’t change that opinion, but if Doty’s ruling forces the owners to get serious about negotiating, knowing they won’t get that TV money and knowing they've lost a measurable amount of leverage, NFL fans will love him forever.
Look for the owners to appeal the decision, but make no mistake: this is a sizable victory for the union.
And the NFLPA's statement: "This ruling means there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lockout players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on."
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