SBD/May 13, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFL Lockout Watch, Day 63: NFLPA Seeks $707M In Damages In TV Rights Case

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).
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