NFL Players Seek Damages Over Owners TV Deal During Lockout

By Community | May 13, 2011

National Football League (NFL) players have asked a U.S. judge to award them damages for team owners’ decision to trade their top price for television broadcast rights for US$4bn in payments during a labor lockout.

Jeffrey Kessler, cough a lawyer for the players, told U.S. District Judge David Doty: “The NFL illegally obtained a $4 billion war chest to fund the lockout. They did so without good faith.”

Attorneys for the players asked Doty for an order barring the owners from accessing those funds and are also seeking as much as $700m in damages, Kessler’s co-counsel, Thomas J. Heiden, told reporters outside the court in Minneapolis.

The hearing comes while the U.S. Court of Appeals weighs up a separate case as to whether to uphold an order by a federal judge in favour of the players, forcing the NFL to end the lockout it imposed March 12.

On March 1, Doty ruled that the 32-team league violated the terms of a settlement agreement, first created in 1993, that obligated the owners to make their best effort to maximize total revenue for the league and its players in 2009 and 2010.

The NFL extended broadcast contracts and altered lockout provisions with DirecTV, CBS Corp. (CBS)News Corp. (NWSA)’s Fox, Comcast Corp. (CMCSA)’s NBC and Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN Inc.

In that ruling, Doty stated: “The NFL renegotiated the broadcast contracts to benefit its exclusive interest at the expense of, and contrary to, the joint interests of the NFL and the players. Broadcast contracts are an enormous source of shared revenue for the players and the NFL.”