WASHINGTON (CBSDC) — The Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles have been embroiled in a vicious feud over the terms of their current settlement agreement — which allows MASN television rights to broadcast Nationals games – and the contractual quarrel has now carried into the courts, in direct defiance of Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig’s orders, according to an extensive report by The Hollywood Reporter.
The original agreement between the two teams, which gave the Orioles a majority partnership profit interest from 2005 to 2011, per the report, with a settlement agreement ruling the Orioles would have to begin paying the Nationals “fair market value” from 2012 and onward.
It’s that very detail – adding up to millions of dollars — which has both organizations exchanging legal threats through various emails and letters, and calling the commissioner’s bluff, as outlined in the Hollywood Reporter’s report.
Furthermore, the situation has become increasingly untenable behind the scenes these last couple weeks, the report details.
According to the report, an MLB arbitration committee comprised of three uninvolved Major League execs (one team CEO, one team president and one team owner) met for a hearing in April, with the Nationals seeking between $100 million and $120 million per year in a new TV deal, a steep hike from the reported $29 million the team originally commanded per season. On June 30, that committee ruled in favor of the Nationals.
“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 team owners Peter Angelos (Orioles) and Ted Lerner (Nationals), per the report, going on to address the extensive time and resources baseball has exhausted to preserve MASN’s value. “Unfortunately, these efforts have come to naught solely due to your unfathomable inability to agree on a fair division of that value. In my view, neither of you has approached this negotiation with the best interest of the game paramount in your mind.”
Selig reportedly then issued a severe threat to both organizations, should either choose to pursue legal action against another. “I want there to be no doubt that, if any party initiates any lawsuit, or fails to act in strict compliance with the procedures set forth in the Agreement concerning the [Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee of Major League Baseball]’s decision, I will not hesitate to impose the strongest sanctions available to me under the Major League Constitution.”
The strongest sanctions, according to the report, could result in the “suspension or removal of any owner, officer or employee of a Major League Club.”
Over the next several weeks, from the day after the stern warning issued by Selig, both teams would pose a series of legal threats through emails sent by team lawyers, the report chronicles, resulting in an overall disregard for Selig’s warnings.
Eriq Gardner, the reporter who broke the story for The Hollywood Reporter, joined Bill Rohland on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoon, explaining how he “kind of stumbled upon” this massive story by paying general close attention to court documents. “No one gave it to me.”
Listen to that interview below. Read the original report here.