Judge David Doty has tonight dealt a serious blow to NFL owners in their negotiations with the players over a new collective bargaining agreement. Doty ruled that the financial protection the owners had built into their most recent television contracts did not align with their stated desire to avoid a player lockout. In the event of a lockout, the networks which broadcast NFL games had agreed to still pay the owners $4 billion, although much of it would have been offset in future seasons. Doty's statement reads, in part:
The court overrules the special master's findings as to the NFL's breach of the (Collective Bargaining Agreement) relating to its contracts with DirecTV, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN, and holds that the NFL breached the (CBA) as to those contracts.
While this contingency plan by the owners was quite brash from the outset, a special master had previously ruled in the league's favor. Unsurprisingly, the NFLPA is celebrating the ruling and their newfound leverage, releasing a statement that,
This ruling means there is irrefutable evidence that owners had a premeditated plan to lock out players and fans for more than two years. The players want to play football. That is the only goal we are focused on.
The NFL's response:
Today's ruling will have no effect on our efforts to negotiate a new, balanced labor agreement.
Hopefully this victory for the NFLPA will push the two sides closer and towards a timely agreement; with their 4-12 record, new front office and schemes, the Broncos need all the offseason work they can get in...