The NFL's owners had a massive leg to stand on with their leverage in the event of a lockout. But on Tuesday night, David struck Goliath with a paralyzing blow.
U.S. District Judge David Doty, who has presided over cases involving the NFL, the NFL Players Association and the collective bargaining agreement for nearly two decades, ruled on Tuesday that the NFL will not have complete access to $4 billion in television revenue during a lockout, according to multiple reports. The NFL also acknowledged Doty's ruling.
As far as the labor dispute is concerned, this is extremely encouraging news. Prior to the ruling, the owners were set to receive their greatest source of revenue regardless of whether or not there were games in 2011 — many league sources have said the NFL made $8 billion each of the last two years. Because of that, they had the luxury to sit back and relax until the players met their demands, if they so chose.
This doesn't mean the two sides will reach an agreement before the current collective bargaining agreement expires on Thursday night, but it will absolutely add to the owners' urgency to get it done. They were financially prepared to kick it by the fire for two seasons, but without the TV revenue, they'll be in a similarly dire situation as the players, who weren't going to make a dime during the lockout, whether they were under contract or not.
The owners still have to pay off stadium debts and the such, and those checks aren't exactly easy to write. So, without this TV cash cow, they're on equal footing.
The owners' urgency was put into question last week when they didn't report to any mediation sessions between the league and the NFLPA. Now that they've been stripped of their $4 billion safety blanket, they won't find it so easy to sleep at night, and they might actually be willing to work around the clock to prevent a lockout.