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Federal Judge Backs NFLPA In Dispute Over TV Money

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Storm clouds are building over the NFL
Storm clouds are building over the NFL

ESPN reports that U.S. District Judge David Doty has ruled in favor of the NFLPA on their appeal against the owner's guaranteed TV contracts for 2011. Doty backed the players' union over the league yesterday in a dispute over television revenue with implications for the looming potential lockout. Doty ruled that the league violated its agreement with the union in carving out $4 billion for itself in additional television revenue.

This overturns a previous ruling by special master Burbank which would have allowed the NFL owners to still receive the $4 billion worth of TV revenue for 2011. 

U.S District Judge David Doty ruled that the league violated its agreement with the union in carving out $4 billion for itself in additional television revenue. The union had argued that the league was effectively stockpiling money to prepare for a lockout.

They owners would have had to pay back the $4 billion to the networks, with interest, but not right away. It was dubbed "lockout insurance" because it meant the league would have a stream of TV money (and no player expenses) to fall back on in case of a lockout or work stoppage.

The ruling means that the league does not have access to those funds in case of a lockout. Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com also notes that, "Doty has not yet ruled the money won't be paid to the league. He could decide to just give the union 59.6 percent of it."

Chris Mortensen sent out a series of tweets saying that the owners "naturally" already have an appeal ready to go  He also said that two owners spoke to him last week and insisted that even if the ruling were to go against them it would not affect how they approach the negotiations.

Whether this turn of events can help get a deal done anytime soon, or whether this is just one of many skirmishes we'll see in this labor standoff remains to be seen. For today at least, this appears to tilt the balance of power in these negotiations slightly in favor of the NFLPA.

(Hat tip to tdships for the fanshot)