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Judge Doty sides with players in “lockout insurance” case


The NFLPA previously had little or no leverage in labor negotiations with the union.

Key word: Previously.

Brian Murphy of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that Judge David Doty has ruled that the NFL violated the Collective Bargaining Agreement by striking deals with television networks that require ongoing payments to the league during a work stoppage.

Judge Doty has ordered another hearing to determine whether the players’ remedy will be financial damages or an injunction preventing the league from pocketing the money during a lockout.

The ruling comes the night before a full day of mediation in Washington, D.C., little more than two days before the expiration of the current labor deal. Though the league surely will balk at the ruling and vow to appeal the decision to a higher court, the possible inability of men like Jerry Jones to pay the mortgage on places like the Jerry Dome suddenly makes it much harder for the league to withstand a lockout.

And while this will do nothing to soften the league’s insistence that the next labor deal should be Doty-free, we think Doty made the right ruling. Once the league agreed to pay the players 59.6 cents of every dollar made (after $1 billion comes off the top), the league assumed a duty to maximize revenues.

At a minimum, the league assumed a duty not to trade the ability to generate more revenue for a contractual term that benefits the owners -- and that hurts the players.

That said, the impact of the ruling on the talks is unknown. It will be important for the league to make concessions in light of the decision, and for the union not to overreach.

Murphy has forwarded a copy of Judge Doty’s 28-page ruling, from which we’ll be lifting any interesting quotes.