A special master ruled for the NFL today in deciding the league could have access to the television money they’ll receive in advance of any games played in 2011. If games are not played it is my understanding that the league would have to pay back money for unplayed games along with interest.
One of the primary issues in play is the fact that even with the potential requirement of paying back the money, this gives the NFL owners a war chest with which to buy some time against the players. The more money one side has the longer they can wait out a new deal and thus end up with potentially better terms.
The NFLPA was awarded damages in the case, but the players still plan to appeal. The logical and fair option would seem to be to put the television money into some kind of escrow account (as mentioned in the Yahoo! article above) so that neither side gets the benefit of money for games not played. Of course logic isn’t always followed to closely in situations like this. Let’s just hope the upcoming bargaining sessions can move us past this decision.