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Attorneys for the NFLPA Thursday in U.S. District Court sought "a minimum of $707 million in damages" in their TV rights case against the league, "as well as an injunction to prevent the league from accepting more than $4 billion in television revenue during the lockout," according to Pat Borzi of the N.Y. TIMES. NFLPA attorney Jeffrey Kessler implored Judge David Doty to "rule swiftly on the injunction." If granted, the money "would be placed in escrow and the NFL would not have access to it during negotiations." The players also are "seeking three times" the $707M amount "in punitive damages," about $2.1B. However, NFL attorney Gregg Levy said that players "were not entitled to damages because they never asked for any before" Special Master Stephen Burbank, who first ruled on the case. Doty, "who found for the players on March 1, heard almost two hours of arguments without issuing a ruling" on Thursday. He "took five days to issue his previous decision." Borzi notes Doty "lamented the failure of players and owners to come to a labor agreement and sounded reluctant to rule at all." Doty: "I'll be honest with you, I didn't think we would have this hearing. By now, I thought this would be decided by the parties" (N.Y. TIMES, 5/13). On Long Island, Bob Glauber notes if Doty "grants the players huge sums of money in damages from the TV rights case, the NFL is expected to appeal to the Eighth Circuit." If the two sides "reach agreement on a new CBA, it is expected that they'll negotiate their own settlement of the TV rights issue" (NEWSDAY, 5/13).
LOCKOUT STAYS IN PLACE: FOXSPORTS.com's Alex Marvez noted both the NFL and the NFLPA are "awaiting word about whether the NFL lockout will be allowed to remain in place." The league was "forced to partially lift it for 24 hours last month per the order of federal district judge Susan Nelson," but the Eight Circuit Court "granted the NFL an emergency stay that allowed the work stoppage to resume." That court "hasn't issued a further ruling on the stay and may not until a June 3 hearing on the matter in St. Louis" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/12). CBSSPORTS.com's Clark Judge wrote, "There has been no ruling, no permanent stay and no end to the lockout -- no nothing since the court swung into action two weeks ago. I wish I knew what that meant." Stanford Univ. law professor William Gould said the lack of a permanent stay ruling does "surprise" him. Gould: "I expected a ruling at an earlier point, but I think what it may say is that the court is deeply divided on this issue. It was a very persuasive and, I would say, stinging short dissent by Judge Kermit Bye, (evidence that) the court was divided on the question of a temporary stay. My sense would be that they (the judges) may well want to get a better sense of the merits of the dispute through the briefing by the parties before they make a ruling on this." Univ. of Toledo professor Geoffrey Rapp said "all signs pointed" to the court ruling on a permanent stay "rather quickly." But he added, "On the other hand, I'm not surprised because I think the court might want to take its time to make sure it gets this one right, given the high level of attention paid to this case by the media and the public at large and what, I think, are likely to be the important consequences of this 'stay decision' on who has the upper hand if the two sides decide to return to the negotiating table" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/12).
ALL THEY CAN DO IS HOPE: In N.Y., Mike Vaccaro writes NFL fans should "keep your ears plugged and your eyes sealed and mostly wait for somebody to tell us everything has been solved, everything has been worked out, the lockout is over and the 2011 football season is on the clock." Vaccaro: "We wait for judges to do their judging and lawyers to do their lawyering and owners and players to reach the 'Eureka!' moment that will inevitably arrive so this foolishness can end and they can keep dividing endless towers of money and not edge American sports fans to the edge of the nervous breakdown that's awaiting the cancellation of even one game this fall ... or else. ... To ponder the alternative is to brood over a sporting reckoning too epic to calculate" (N.Y. POST, 5/13). In Philadelphia, Rich Hofmann writes under the header, "In Wake Of Lockout, NFL Risks Losing Casual Fans." If the lockout "affects only the die-hards, then it probably isn't meaningful." Hofmann: "But if it impacts the more casual fan and affects the future growth of the fan base -- well, that is the NFL's dangerous game" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 5/13). CBSSPORTS.com's Mike Freeman wrote the NFL is "setting the wrong kind of records, a stagnant sport, with increasingly angry fans." Freeman: "Some of them might never come back as the lockout drags on. The only good news for football is that no games have been missed. We're still some time away from that point, but what once seemed impossible becomes more plausible with each passing day" (CBSSPORTS.com, 5/12).
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem Friday morning shot down a suggestion that the Tour pressured Tiger Woods to enter The Players this week despite having injuries to his knee and Achilles, saying "The idea that we would pressure him to do anything is ludicrous." Finchem added, "We don't pressure any player to play any tournament. In this case, the suggestion is somehow he was hurt and we got him to play anyway. Tiger doesn't enter a tournament unless he thinks he can win" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 5/13). IMG's Mark Steinberg on Thursday said it was "absolutely inaccurate" to suggest the Tour pressured his client to enter the tournament. Sportswriter John Feinstein "ignited a mini-firestorm Thursday by declaring on Golf Channel that the PGA Tour had 'pressured' Woods to enter" The Players. Feinstein's comment "drew vehement denials" from Steinberg and PGA Tour Exec VP/Communications & Int'l Affairs Ty Votaw. Votaw said the Tour was "surprised" by Feinstein's comment, adding, "It's simply not true. He couched his opinion as a factual statement that was not based on fact. I can categorically deny that anyone was pressured to play in this tournament" (USATODAY.com, 5/12). Feinstein Friday said he spoke with Votaw via e-mail Thursday, and Votaw "categorically denies that the Tour put any pressure on Tiger Woods to play.” Feinstein: “So they say they put no pressure on him. There are players who believe that he was pressured to play." Golf Channel's Charlie Rymer said players "feel pressure to play events," and that Woods "might feel pressure even to play events, but why not? That's natural" ("Live From the Players Championship," Golf Channel, 5/13).
FEINSTEIN'S ORIGINAL COMMENTS: The reaction stems from Feinstein's comments Thursday morning following Woods' withdrawal from The Players when he said he believed the PGA Tour "called in their chit from last year when (PGA Commissioner) Tim Finchem turned the clubhouse here over to him for his Tiger-and-pony show, his first public appearance after the accident and wanted him to play here because this is a big-deal event for the Tour. I think Tiger was trying to do the right thing by being here and showing that support for the Tour.” Feinstein: "I think Tiger was trying to do the right thing by being here and showing that support for the Tour. ... His first priority should have been to say to the Tour, 'Look, I understand why you want me there. I need to make sure I'm 100 percent'" ("Live From the Players Championship," Golf Channel, 5/12).
LIFE WITHOUT WOODS: Finchem Friday said Woods being an active member of the PGA Tour "helps us a lot," but noted he is "not worried" about a potential extended absence. Finchem said, "The story now is the young players and whether Tiger's going to come back to play like he used to. Those are good stories. If he's healthy and playing, those stories will underpin a lot of interest in the sport. So he doesn't have to come back and dominate like he did. He needs to play." Finchem did say is he concerned about "where his injuries are going to go, and he doesn't know what the answer to that is, and we won't know for a while." Finchem: "But it's important because the fans want to see whether this guy can come back to the stage he was on" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 5/13).
MLB and the MLBPA in March began discussing a new CBA, and MLB Exec VP/Labor Relations & HR Rob Manfred on Thursday expressed "mild optimism that a deal could be reached" before the current deal expires in December. Manfred: "I really like the pace we're on. We're in the early stages of the process. The process is well under way." Still, Manfred "warned of reading too much" into the early discussions. He declined to comment on "whether the 'tenor' of the negotiations was different" now that Michael Weiner has replaced Don Fehr as Exec Dir of the MLBPA (N.Y. POST, 5/13).
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE: NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said Fehr is “going through his learning curve and adjustment period” as the new NHLPA Exec Dir, and the two will be “working more and more closely together as he gets more and more comfortable with understanding our game and the business of our game.” Bettman: “We have another year to go in our collective bargaining agreement. Nobody wants to see work stoppages in any sports. Everybody knows we went through a difficult period. … Obviously, when the time comes, we'll get together with the players association, I'll get together it Donald Fehr and work our way through the next collective bargaining agreement" ("Chronicle Live," Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, 5/12).
SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE: In Milwaukee, Michael Hunt writes the NBA's business model is "so insanely broken in terms of parity and the pocketbook that a lockout is coming July 1 unless someone can figure this thing out." Unlike the NFL, the NBA "can't last as is." NBA Commissioner David Stern has "caused enough problems by marketing players at the expense of franchises, and now he wants to stuff the entitled genie back into the bottle." Hunt adds, "I'm not sure I believe the league when it says it lost $300 million this season. I'm not sure I believe 22 of the 30 teams are losing money, but I'm pretty sure the Bucks aren't showing a profit" (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, 5/13).
FIGHT CLUB: Zuffa LLC this week held the third annual UFC Fighter Summit in Las Vegas, gathering its athletes for "sessions on concussions, steroids, rules and finances," and in Jacksonville, Francine King wrote Zuffa and UFC President Dana White deserve credit for "making an effort to take care of the fighters." King: "I have to give credit where credit is due. ... As short as most athletes' careers are, there's no better advice than for them to watch their finances closely. There are just too many sad stories of athletes who've squandered or been swindled" out of their incomes (JACKSONVILLE.com, 5/12).