NFL Players seeking $707 million in damages

Roger Goodell, National Football League Commissioner, testifies before the Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce committee on “The NFL StarCaps Case: Are Sports’ Anti-Doping Programs at a Legal Crossroads?” on Capitol Hill in Washington November 3, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts (UNITED STATES POLITICS SPORT FOOTBALL)

According to, locked-out players asked a federal judge on Thursday to make $4 billion in disputed broadcast revenue off limits to the league and to award them at least $707 million in damages.

Jeffrey Kessler, an attorney for the players, urged Doty to rule quickly on the request to put the $4 billion “war chest” in escrow because of the ongoing lockout. The players have argued that the league can make it through the work stoppage in part because it illegally secured that money by renegotiating TV contracts for 2011 that allows the NFL to get paid even if there are no games to televise.

Gregg Levy, an attorney for the league, said the players have no right to damages, and he accused them of “sandbagging and ambush.”

Levy told reporters afterward the league never intended to finance a work stoppage with money from the networks. He said the players don’t have the right to access the money, however, and balked at the proposal for an escrow arrangement.

“It would in effect give the players some entitlement to that money which we don’t believe they are entitled to,” Levy said.

The damages award alone could amount to a huge piece of leverage for the players in their fight with the NFL over the next collective bargaining agreement. And so could making the broadcast money off limits.

“I think that the owners predicated a lot of their strategy in having a revenue stream for 2011,” said Marc Greenbaum, a labor law professor at Suffolk University Law School in Boston who is following the case. “If Judge Doty grants the players’ request, an important part of their strategy is undermined.”

It’s interesting to read how the owners “never intended to finance a work stoppage with money from the networks.” Then how were the owners going to fund their lockout? With loans? Were they going to borrow money from their parents? And what was going to happen to all that TV money if the lockout wiped out the entire 2011 season? The owners were just going to let it sit there as they lost money hand over fist? Come on – that was their insurance policy.

Granted, I don’t think the players should be awarded that money either. In fact, had they not foolishly worked it into the contracts that the league would get paid no matter if there was football to televise or not, I think the money should go back to the networks. I mean, the networks paid to televise football. If there is no football, then there should be no deal.

But alas, the TV networks agreed to pay the league no matter what, and now they’ve unknowingly created a monster in the form of this $4 billion revenue pot.

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