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Ruling Finds NFL Withheld Millions from Players

A ruling by an arbiter has found that the National Football League illicitly withheld over $100 million in revenues from the players. The league is now being told to return the money.

Arbitrator Stephen Burbank ruled last week that the NFL essentially defrauded the Players Association of up to $120 million of ticket revenue over the last three years. The association, which discovered the discrepancy during on ongoing audit, filed a grievance in January.

“They created an exemption out of a fiction and they got caught,” DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA said according to The Wall Street Journal.

The NFL would not confirm the amount involved in the ruling, but did tell the paper there was a “technical accounting issue under the CBA involving the funding of stadium construction and renovation projects.”

Burbank ordered the money to be returned to the players “immediately.”

At issue is a provision in the collective bargaining agreement over revenue sharing from ticket sales and other revenue. According to the agreement, players get 40 percent of ticket sales, 45 percent from sponsorship revenue, 55 percent from media deals and cash from NFL.com, the NFL Network and other such entities.

The league, though, has several exemptions from the revenue sharing — such as money from personal seat licenses, premium seating, and the like — with the funds going to stadium refurbishing and upkeep. But the audit found the NFL created an exemption it called the “waived gate” exemption, one that isn’t delineated in the agreement.

The arbiter determined the improper exemption would raise 2016 revenue by up to $1.5 million per team.

The NFLPA’s Smith celebrated the ruling saying his organization is “diligent when it comes to getting our share of revenues.”

In December it was reported that the 2016 salary cap would be about $153.4 million but by February 15 the number jumped to $155 million.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com

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