Monday, March 21, 2011
Judge Doty: The Player’s Best Friend?
Three weeks ago, Federal District Court Judge David Doty sided with the NFLPA when he ruled that the NFL had violated the terms of the, then in place, collective bargaining agreement. By using its extraordinary market power, the NFL was able to force the networks wishing to carry its product to agree to provisions that required the networks to continue paying even if there was a work stoppage. Moreover, Doty continued, the NFL did so in preparation of a work stoppage, which was at least a few years away. Additionally, these provisions came at the expense of securing higher annual fees under the contracts if they removed the lockout terms. This was done because in the years prior to the lockout, where the NFL accepted lower annual fees, the fees were to be shared with the players; however, in the event of a lockout, the owners would have been able to keep all the revenue.
Judge Doty stressed that the NFL’s actions were taken with an eye toward locking out the players in a way that would hurt the players financially without a similar harm to themselves. In effect, the owners structured the deals, that were supposed to be negotiated to “maximize revenue for players,” to advance their own interests and not the players. The deals were done in a way to gain leverage for the owners in the event (an event that the owners were planning to occur) of a work stoppage. A plan Judge Doty put a stop to.
Although this was a win for the players, one wonders if the same logic won’t work against them in their upcoming April 6th hearing, a hearing brought by NFL players, led by the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees, claiming that the lockout violates antitrust laws. However, this antitrust lawsuit is only available because the players decertified, a process they began in the fall of 2010. The decertification was done in such a public way in an attempt to gain leverage during negotiations and to allow this current lawsuit to take place. The NFL will/is going to argue that the decertification should be overlooked/ignored as it is a simple ploy to gain leverage whenever the two sides meet again at the bargaining table. It is certainly possible a Judge could look at the NFLPA’s actions the same way Judge Doty looked at the NFL owner’s actions when negotiating the TV deals and agree with the NFL to ignore the decertification.
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