The NFL Players' Associate took aim at the league's television contracts today, filing a legal challenge with Special Master Steven Burbank claiming that the part of the deal that guarantees the league $4 billion, season or not, amounts to nothing more than lockout insurance at the expense of fans and players.
Players would not be compensated during a lockout. Essentially, the complaint alleges that the league gave networks a more favorable deal than the market would have dictated in order to secure the lockout provision. That, in turn, not only reduced money that could have otherwise gone into the salary pool, but gave the league an unfair advantage at the bargaining table. Player salaries and benefits equate to $4.4 billion, without having to pay that, the $4 billion in guaranteed money could translate to owners still turning a profit in 2011, football or not.
The players' union points to the Direct TV deal as the most egregious violation, noting that the flat rates for the first two years of the deal also came in the face of increased access via the NFL RedZone channel and via the internet.
The league argues that the TV deals were negotiated during the down economy, which is why the bulk of broadcasting rights prices were flat for 2009 and 2010, going up in the later years of the deal from 2011-2014.
As a remedy, the NFLPA wants the guaranteed $4 billion to be put in an escrow account in case of a lockout.
It's easy to see the union's point on this issue; guaranteed money gives owners a big bargaining chip. For the owners, the TV deals are life giving water, and that money helps level the playing field for small market teams that don't turn profits like the Cowboys.
Stay tuned, the labor battle just escalated.