One of the biggest elephants in the room of the current NFL labor situation is that, regardless of whether or not there's football in 2011 or not, the NFL owners are still going to collect a ton of money from television contracts. This gives the owners an incredible amount of leverage, and gives them the ability to lock out the players without having to worry significantly losing money. After all, compared to the majority of individual players, the owners have a seemingly limitless supply of money at their disposal. . .more so if they're allowed to split the $4 billion (with a "b") that the most recent television deal gives them regardless of whether games are played or not.
The decision made today by federal judge David Doty. . .who you may remember from such football lawsuits as "Pat and Kevin Williams Take On the NFL" and "Michael Vick Gets To Keep His Signing Bonus After Killing A Bunch Of Dogs". . .has unsealed a cache of documents that shows that the National Football League's owners may not have acted in good faith when they put together the deal that says that they would have a stream of revenue to tap if the league were to lock out its players.
Though it remains to be seen whether Judge Doty will agree with the NFLPA’s position that the league violated the CBA by seeking a term that benefited only the league (and thus necessarily required the NFL to take less money that could have been shared by the owners and the players), the development undercuts the notion that the "lockout insurance" hadn’t specifically been inserted into the 2009 network contracts.
Which in turn supports the notion that the league sought in the 2009 network contracts a term that benefited only the league.
Now, I'm no legal eagle or anything like that, but apparently the crux of this argument is that because the players and the owners collectively bargained a deal that was supposed to be beneficial to both sides, it was incumbent upon both sides that the amount of potential revenue to be shared be maximized. However, when the league negotiated the contracts with the media outlets, they included a provision that would have lessened the potential revenue stream for the sole purpose of allowing the owners to have this "back door" revenue stream that they could use as leverage against the players.
Either way, it appears that the owners' biggest leverage against the players could be on the verge of being thrown out the window. After all, if the judge rules that the owners actually have to have their teams playing football in order to collect the $4 billion from the television contracts, one would think that it would compel them to actually get a mutually beneficial CBA completed and give us football for 2011 after all.
Of course, if the owners still aren't interested in negotiating and are under the impression that this $4 billion is theirs regardless, we could get into a legal slap fight over that, too, which would just delay things even longer.
That's the impression I'm getting, anyway. . .if I'm incorrect in my assessments, someone can feel free to correct me in the comments section.
So, in conclusion, I'm happy to report that progress is being made in the NFL's labor negotiations. Maybe. It also might not be.
What a great off-season it's been thus far, huh?