A minimum of $707 million in damages is what the NFL players have requested for their claim against the League and its $4 billion worth of broadcast contracts. Federal District Court Judge David Doty has reserved his opinion on the damage request.
During a two hour hearing during which attorneys for the League and the players presented their arguments, Jeffrey Kessler, the lead counsel for the players, encouraged Judge Doty to issue an expedited decision because of the ongoing lockout that has restricted league operations.
Judge Doty already backed the now-decertified National Football League Players Association in his decision overturning Special Master Stephen Burbank’s ruling in favor of the NFL. In his March 1st, 28-page opinion, Judge Doty ruled that the NFL violated its labor agreement with the players when it negotiated television contracts to include provisions that guaranteed payment to the NFL even if the 2011 season was not played as a result of a lockout. Specifically, Judge Doty stated, “The record shows that the NFL undertook contract renegotiations to advance its own interest and harm the interests of the players.”
The union claimed that the NFL failed to maximize the television contracts and accepted lesser financial terms to provide the owners with a guaranteed “war chest” of revenue. The union convinced Judge Doty that this revenue stream provided illegal financial leverage for the NFL in its labor fight with the players.
Clearly, any damage award rendered by Judge Doty will be appealed by the NFL, which will bring the League and its players in front of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals once again.