SBD/February 9, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA Seeks Ruling On Special Master Appeal By CBA's Expiration Date

The NFLPA is asking a federal judge to issue a decision on its appeal of the Special Master case by March 3, the day before the NFL can lock out players, according to a source familiar with the situation. The union did not receive the injunction it was seeking to prevent the NFL from receiving more than $4B in TV contract money if games are not played this year. U.S. District Court Judge David Doty has set a hearing for oral arguments on the case for Feb. 24 in a federal courtroom in Minneapolis, the source said. The source requested anonymity because this person was not authorized to speak publicly about the case. The NFL CBA expires March 4 at 12:00am. Special Master Stephen Burbank ruled last week that the NFL did violate the Reggie White Settlement agreement, which governs the CBA, with respect to its negotiation of what the union has called "lockout insurance" in its contracts with ESPN and NBC. But Burbank did not grant the union the injunction it was seeking and, instead, awarded damages. The union filed an immediate appeal of Burbank's decision, but that appeal was filed under seal. Although details of the case have been kept secret, the Feb. 24 hearing is set to be heard in open court. If Doty was to reverse Burbank's decision, and grant an injunction stopping the NFL from receiving TV revenues even if ‘11 NFL games are canceled, it could give the NFLPA more leverage in the ongoing CBA negotiation, labor experts say. The NFLPA won a damage award of about $6M, which NFL Exec VP & General Counsel Jeff Pash at a press conference last week called "modest" (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal).

TIME TO GET TO WORK: In an op-ed piece for the DETROIT NEWS, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell writes, "One of the best NFL seasons in history is over. We salute NFL players for their talent and we appreciate the fan support. The hard work to secure the next NFL season must now accelerate in earnest." Goodell writes the NFL "must reach a new" CBA by March 4, and "if we as a league fail to fulfill our shared responsibility to the fans and game, everyone will be worse off." Goodell: "If both sides give a little, everyone gets a lot, especially the fans" (DETROIT NEWS, 2/9). ESPN's John Clayton noted to "watch for more meetings" between the league and the NFLPA on the CBA as the two sides "try to at least resolve some of these major issues, and then at some point get somebody to break to make some kind of an offer that gets things moving in a positive direction" ("NFL Live," ESPN, 2/8).

WEIGHING IN ON THE ISSUES: Jaguars Owner Wayne Weaver yesterday said that he "thinks an 18-game regular season schedule is what the fans want." Weaver: "Fans don't see the value in paying for preseason games." Weaver added he believes two regular-season games is "one of the bridges" toward a new CBA "because there's a huge amount of money from the television package that helps bridge the gap to get where we need to go." He added, "The data shows that it's not going to add to the injuries because you do have four preseason games (under the previous system). You do have those, starters play in those. People get hurt in training camp. People still get hurt in OTAs." Meanwhile, Weaver said that he "does not anticipate layoffs" to the Jaguars' staff in the event of a lockout, and that the Jaguars "need to have season-ticket sales grow by 4,000 to 5,000 each year" (FLORIDA TIMES-UNION, 2/9). Weaver said that the current CBA "allots 65 percent of the revenue for player costs." Weaver: "That only leaves you 35 percent to run your business. It's hard to invest in your business and do other things you need to do. We need to fix that balance so that every club can invest in itself" (BIZJOURNALS.com, 2/8).
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