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Players likely headed for friendly confines of Judge David Doty’s courtroom

03.11.11 at 6:34 pm ET
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Expect Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to be more of a legal presence for the NFLPA in the coming days. (AP)

In the struggle between the NFLPA and owners, things just got a lot more favorable for the players.

Despite the fact that no lockout of the players has been executed as of yet, things now appear headed to the court of Judge David Doty, an 81-year-old ex-U.S. Marine who has gained tremendous power in NFL circles: Doty’s 1993 ruling in favor of the NFL players gave a handful of NFL players free agency and created the foundation of the collective bargaining agreement we have today. As a result, as long as the CBA is in effect, Doty would be in charge of enforcing the rules.

And when Doty has been challenged, more often than not, he’s sided with the players. There was the initial ruling that paved the way for free agency, and two weeks ago, Doty ruled that $4 billion in future TV revenue the owners had access to in the event of a lockout violated the terms of the collective bargaining deal.

“The players are in a phenomenal position of leverage right now,” said Ron Washburn, who teaches a sports law class at Bryant University. “From the owners’ perspective, Doty has certainly shown himself to be player-friendly in his interpretations of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“And this will likely be the most important legal decision in sports of the last decade.”

According to reports, the players and owners are still separated on three major sticking points remain in the battle between the players and the owners: the distribution of roughly $9 billion in revenue, a move from a 16-game to an 18-game regular season and the creation of a rookie wage scale. The two sides have been unable to reach an accord on the main issues, and so now, it appears there will be a lockout, the first work stoppage in NFL history since 1987.

Early Friday evening, once decertification became official, reports indicated the NFLPA has filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL, a suit that likely alleges a potential lockout would violate players’ employment contracts with teams. (The players’ association had to wait to file the suit because a union is not allowed to sue a party with which it is collectively bargaining.) It’s a suit that reportedly includes Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, as well as teammate Logan Mankins. In addition, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Osi Umenyiora were all also apparently named as plaintiffs.

“It’s important to have big names out front on legal issues like this,” Washburn said. “It will help win the battle of public opinion.”

That suit likely starts a journey to Doty’s courtroom. And while it certainly appears we are heading for a decision that will be in favor of the players — one that could be in court for a few months — Washburn believes the two sides will ultimately avoid a lockout.

“I can’t imagine a scenario when either side could benefit from a lockout,” Washburn said. “There’s just too much money on the table.”

Read More: Drew Brees, lockout, Logan Mankins, Osi Umenyiora Print  |  Bark It Up!  |  Digg It
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