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NFLPA cries foul over TV contracts

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Posted July 22, 2010 @ 4:50 p.m. ET
By Barry Jackson

The appetite and willingness of NFL owners to endure a potentially lengthy lockout at the start of the 2011 season could hinge, in large part, on a broadcast-oriented lawsuit filed in recent weeks.

The NFL Players Association filed a "special master" case against the NFL, alleging the league purchased billions of dollars of financial lockout funding for 2011 by reworking its TV contracts, which will pay the league even if no games are played.

The NFLPA said the guaranteed TV money (nearly $4 billion) — combined with the elimination of $4.4 billion in player salaries and benefits during a lockout — would make it profitable for the owners during a work stoppage.

The union alleged the contract violated the White settlement, in which the league agreed to do everything it can to maximize revenues that are shared with the players.

Jeffrey Kessler, outside counsel to the union, said, "The NFL gave (TV partners) immediate new valuable media benefits in 2009, for nothing. In essence, the NFL knowingly left money on the table at the expense of the players. The NFL, thus, has acted in bad faith."

Not so, the NFL says. The league said the TV contracts "that the union attacked were agreed to during the worst economy in our lifetimes. Far from failing to maximize revenue, the contracts grew league revenue to fund higher player salaries and benefits. No wonder DeMaurice Smith said publicly this year, 'My hat's off to Roger Goodell. Television is locked up until 2014 to the tune of about $5 billion a year.'

"The union's meritless charges, including many inaccuracies, will be addressed in the proper forum, but they are simply a distraction and do nothing to get us any closer to a new CBA." The league said it "repeatedly" offered the union's lawyers a chance to examine the TV contacts "but the NFLPA refused to agree to standard confidentiality guarantees."

The NFL believes it will be very difficult for the union to prove that the league gave up something of value in exchange for the lockout provision.

A couple of key points:

• Though the networks would pay the league during a lockout, any sum would have to be repaid with interest.

• The lockout provision has been included in past TV contracts. "I don't remember a deal, certainly all the way back to the early 1980s, that this (stipulation) wasn't in," NBC's Dick Ebersol told Sports Business Journal.


• Eager to cut down on his travel, Marv Albert quit his job as Westwood One radio's play-by-play announcer for "Monday Night Football." Kevin Harlan will replace him.

• With Dick Enberg giving up full-time NFL duties to announce San Diego Padres games, look for CBS to promote Ian Eagle to its No. 3 team alongside Dan Fouts.

• Former Raiders personnel executive Michael Lombardi, who has become NFL Network's best information man, joined the network and full-time and left his gig with the National Football Post.

• Responding to criticism in some circles, Fox said it has no problem with information man Jay Glazer serving as a mixed-martial-arts trainer for several players, including the Texans' Brian Cushing. The network said Glazer knows his TV job is his first priority.


Barry Jackson covers sports media for the Miami Herald. 


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