Score one for football and the University of Minnesota Law School

It took nearly ten months after I graduated, but finally I am proud of something the University of Minnesota Law School produced: 80-year old Judge David Doty. This something to be proud of comes from an unlikely source, to be sure, but if Judge Doty turns out to be the guy who puts the 2011 NFL season back on track…well…go UM Law School.

Judge Doty dealt NFL owners their first big blow in the 2+ years of labor negotiations that will culminate in the expiring of the Collective Bargaining Agreement tomorrow. The decision comes a bit too late to get anything done by the CBA deadline, but for the first time, there is a positive step towards an NFL season for 2011.

It turns out that the NFL owners have been secretly plotting for this lockout for over two years.* Part of this plan consisted of hoarding $4 billion in TV revenues that would help the owners withstand the lost revenue that would come with a lockout. Judge Doty did not think this was particularly fair. Ostensibly, it was because the owners violated their agreement with the players’ union. In reality, the biggest factor is surely that it was a total dick move by the NFL owners.

* Which makes Commissioner Roger Goodell look even more incompetent than normal. Seriously, what was that guy doing for the past two years, other than spouting off every now and then about player safety? I suppose that’s a column for a different day.

The owners are still in a way better position than players to withstand a lockout. It isn’t even particularly close. But $4 billion is quite a bit of money. The owners had stockpiled that money as a sort of “loan” from their television deal. They were banking on the NFL maintaining its popularity after a lockout, so they would make the money back on future TV deals. Now that money is gone.

The $4 billion might not make much of a dent…but then the union might de-certify tonight…leaving the case in Judge Doty’s jurisdiction…and Doty has proven to be pro-union in the past…and if all these things keep adding up, we might just have a season if we keep our fingers crossed.

Most of that is beyond my comprehension. I originally thought I would use my legal background to cover the NFL labor negotiations before I realized that a) a bajillion more competent people are already doing that; and b) I have literally no expertise in any of the areas of law in question. Instead I’ll move on to Judge Doty.

When I first read the article, I thought the name David Doty sounded familiar. It turns out that I recognized him from all kinds of other sports-related lawsuits. The guy has been dominating sports leagues for a quarter century. From my perspective, his ruling on the NFL free agent system in 1992 takes the cake. This lawsuit led to Reggie White signing with the Green Bay Packers in 1993, which then led to the Pack winning their first Super Bowl in my lifetime in 1997. So yeah, I already like the guy.

Since then, he has presided over several more disputes between the players and owners, generally coming out in favor of the players’ union. The owners are putting on a brave face because they knew that Judge Doty would rule against them. On one hand, the owners are right – they can appeal and it isn’t like they were counting on a victory in the first place. On the other, you better believe that they are terrified of these issues remaining in Judge Doty’s jurisdiction.

Regardless of their opinion on unions in general, NFL fans support the players’ union, if for no other reason than no fan gives a crap on how much money an owner makes. They just want football. Judge Doty is a friend of football, so I already like him.

Then comes this fantastic tidbit: Judge Doty is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Law School. Score one for the Gophers. Finally I am proud of the company I keep as a fellow University of Minnesota Law graduate. Well done, Judge Doty, well done.

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2 Responses to Score one for football and the University of Minnesota Law School

  1. Andrew Nesbitt says:

    Hope you don’t mind, I’ve added you to my blogroll.

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