Owners Tackled in Court

As everyone knows, money will dictate the future of the NFL and the new Collective Bargaining agreement.  There is a $9 billion dollar pie both sides are trying to cut up and deliver, and all they can do is argue.

NFL owners are the richest in Professional Sports.  As a group they dictate Networks, fans, cities and much more.  NFL owners like Jerry Jones, Randy Lerner and Steve Bisciotti have so much money they can buy your business tomorrow, fire all the employees including you, sell it next week and never bat an eye.  That is how most have achieved their status and have ego’s the size of their stadiums.

But that was dealt a blow Tuesday.   The owners had put away over $4 billion in television money as a “work-stoppage” fund should the CBA expire at midnight Thursday night.  Originally special master Stephen Burbank’s ruled that the owners could use that money and keep it from the players.  Doty ruled the NFL violated the current CBA and called for a separate hearing to assess damages that should be awarded to the players.  The ruling by Doty can, and will be appealed but the NFL.

This means for now the owners are back on the same plane with the players.  They may be forced to split the $4 billion with the players, which also define both sides as having no reason to play next season.  So even though Doty’s ruling may benefit the players, it doesn’t provide an avenue for a quick solution.

After Doty’s ruling, the NFL released this statement:  “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.”

According to a CNN report over two weeks ago, this fund was to be used to help the owners perform the lockout and not lose any money.  Keep in mind it’s so THEY don’t lose money.  As stated earlier this week, the New York Jets already have plans to cut salaries, furlough employees and stop services.  All so the owners can keep their bank account intact.  With this fund, the owners simply did not have any urgency to work out a deal.

In a statement the NFL Players Association said about the decision: “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 Players Association’s main argument to Doty was the owners took less money from the networks in 2009 and 2010.  Then in the renegotiated contracts beginning in 2011 a “work stoppage” clause was agreed upon so the owners would have a fund to work with, thus giving it an unfair advantage in negotiations with the Union.  Now Doty has set aside that idea for the time being.

Does this ruling change anything?  Very little.  Neither side has a reason to negotiate in good faith until July.  The league has already announced plans to go ahead with the draft, their main spectacle in the off season.  So the next step is pre season games.  According to Commissioner Roger Goodell fans don’t care about pre season games anyway, so it’s safe to assume the league doesn’t either.  So the urgency for the owners, should Doty’s ruling stay, will be in September when the regular season games begin.

That’s if they even care.

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