According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter Tuesday, the fight over the Washington Nationals’ television rights and revenue could hit the open court soon. And baseball is doing everything it can to avoid that happening.
In a letter obtained by the publication, outgoing MLB commissioner Bug Selig has threatened to “impose the strongest sanctions available” if either party files a lawsuit in relation to an arbitration panel’s ruling that MASN (and by extension, the Baltimore Orioles) must begin to pay the Nationals “fair market value” for the team’s broadcast rights.
“I am deeply saddened by the fact that you have not been able to resolve amicably the pending broadcast rights dispute,” wrote Selig in a letter to [Orioles owner Peter] Angelos and Nationals owner Ted Lerner, obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.
The commissioner spoke about expending extensive time and resources towards preserving the value of sports TV network serving both clubs. “Unfortunately, these efforts have come to naught solely due to your unfathomable inability to agree on a fair division of that value,” he wrote. “In my view, neither of you has approached this negotiation with the best interest of the game paramount in your mind.”
Despite the Commissioner’s threats to impose sanctions, presumably all the way up to expulsion, it seems almost inevitable the Nats broadcast rights situation is destined for the open court. MLB has long avoided such situations due to the fragile balance of its antitrust exemption.
But if baseball can’t uphold its own arbitration panel ruling, the Nationals may have no other option than to take the situation to the courts, prompting a long, bitter and fascinating legal battle that would most likely outlive the remaining days of Bug Selig’s commissionership.