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Doty rules in favor of NFLPA in TV contracts case

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By PFW staff

A big decision has been made that could impact this week's labor negotiations between the NFL Players Association and the owners.

U.S. District Judge David Doty has ruled in favor of the players in the union's appeal regarding the owners' TV contracts, making $4 billion of money unavailable to owners in the event of a lockout. Doty's decision reverses a ruling made by special master Stephen Burbank.

The league has contracts with TV networks allowing them immediate access to $4 billion, even if there is a lockout. The NFLPA called it lockout insurance and appealed Burbank's ruling to Doty. Last week, Doty delayed his decision, so as not to impact the current negotiations over a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Now, in the event of a work stoppage, the owners will not have access to the $4 billion. "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."

The current CBA expires at 11:59 p.m. ET on Thursday.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello released the following statement from the league as its comment on Doty's ruling:

"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."

Here is the statement from the NFLPA:

"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." 

The way we see it

This is a huge win for the players, with just over 48 hours before the CBA expires. Doty has been known to rule in favor of unions in CBA hearings, and this decision could give the players some needed leverage. It has been thought that the guaranteed TV money would give the owners more flexibility for running their organizations if they should choose to lock out the players.

According to Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter, Doty will have a hearing with the two sides to decide what the damages are or if the money will be put in escrow.

While the league would have paid the money back to the networks with interest, this ruling makes the funds unavailable to any owners who might have outstanding payments they would have to make, even in the event of a lockout.

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