Is it actually, finally, really, over? Surely there are going to be more appeals by the Baltimore Orioles, right? Or is this really it, it? Like the end? Sports Business Group editor Eric Fisher’s reporting on Twitter tonight suggests that with the latest ruling, the Washington Nationals and the Orioles’ long-running MASN dispute might finally be over...
More than 4 years ago, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said that "sooner or later" MASN would pay higher rights fees to the Nationals. That day is now coming as a NY state Supreme Court judge rules definitively for the Nats & confirms a league arbitration award in their favor— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) August 23, 2019
How much the Nats will get in additional local rights fees will be determined by a judicial hearing officer (appointed by the court to perform subordinate duties such as this). Huge win for the Nats after more than seven years of fighting with the MASN/Orioles.— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) August 23, 2019
The judge in the MASN case had signaled at oral arguments last month he was reluctant to overturn MLB ruling and said today the O's did not meet their "heavy burden of showing evident partiality, corruption, or fundamental unfairness" to mandate a third trip to league arbitration— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) August 23, 2019
Lots of big questions still to come spinning out of this big MASN ruling. Does this lead to the network and/or the Orioles being sold, for example?— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) August 23, 2019
Also the financial viability of MASN. Though not specified in papers as a legal argument to overturn the MLB arbitration decisions for DC, MASN/O's had privately grumbled that giving the Nats what they wanted would give them a dangerously low profit margin.— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) August 23, 2019
And Manfred's "sooner or later" comment that the O's said was evidence of league bias? Judge said not a big deal. "The court does not believe that public statements such as those referenced by the Orioles are sufficient to throw into doubt the fairness" of the RSDC process.— Eric Fisher (@EricFisherSBG) August 23, 2019
As an AP report on the ruling notes, the dispute over MASN rights fees has been going on for years, since 2012 actually, when the amount MASN has to pay the Nationals first had to be renegotiated and the two sides could not agree on the TV rights fees.
The AP report summed up the years-long history of the dispute as succinctly as possible:
“The Orioles and Nationals jointly own the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network and have been fighting in court for years about how much money Washington is owed under their unusual TV rights arrangement.”
Now, New York Supreme Court Justice Joel M. Cohen, “... confirmed an arbitration decision from baseball executives ordering the Washington Nationals to be paid $296.8 million by the cable network they jointly own with the Baltimore Orioles for their television rights from 2012-16,” as the AP report noted.
The O’s side wanted the judge to reject the arbitration, “... [b]ut Cohen said there was no reason to throw out the arbitrators’ award, and he also ruled Thursday that the Nationals were entitled to interest on the money they have yet to be paid,” though how much they receive in interest will be decided by, “... a court official known as a special referee clerk.”
Fisher described the decision as a “a massive legal win” for the Nationals in an article that fleshes out his tweeted reports, noting that the Orioles, “... successfully vacated an initial ruling in Washington’s favor by MLB’s Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee, which helps set local media rights with equity interests in their own regional sports networks.”
“The RSDC reconvened and earlier this year again ruled in favor of the Nationals, a decision MASN quickly moved to block. But Justice Joel Cohen said the Orioles and MASN this time failed to meet their “heavy burden of showing evident partiality, corruption, or fundamental fairness” to warrant another legal overturning of an internal arbitration.”
“MASN has paid the Nationals $197.5 million for their 2012-16 rights,” Fisher added, “... the sum the Orioles had proposed. The RSDC ruling, now confirmed by the court, was for $296.8 million.”
Soooooo... is it really over? Will the Nationals get their money? Does anyone still care about this dispute? After years of waiting, is this finally the definitive ruling?