Nationals claim MASN has stopped paying them TV money

Josh Luckenbaugh
April 09, 2019 - 10:07 am
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The Orioles and Nationals' never-ending MASN battle has taken yet another twist, and this one is a doozy.

The Nationals sued the Orioles in New York court Monday, alleging MASN has stopped paying Washington their television revenue payout. Under the current arrangement, signed in 2005 before the Lerner family purchased the team, the Nationals were supposed to gain gradual financial stakes in MASN, capping out at 33 percent in 2032, a deal extremely favorable for the Orioles. 

"According to documents filed Monday in New York, MASN has made cash flow payments to both teams every year early in the season," reads a Hollywood Reporter article published Monday on the suit. "By June 2018, though, the Nationals hadn't received their payout and accordingly inquired about the missing money. Thus began months of correspondence between the two clubs and the MLB Commissioner without resolution." 

The Nationals say they went into the 2018 offseason without receiving this TV money, which Washington could potentially argue hampered their pursuit of Bryce Harper. The Nationals have made such claims before during this years-long legal battle with the Orioles.  

"In October, the Nationals submitted the cash flow dispute to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred for arbitration," the report continues. "In response, the Orioles asked Manfred to determine arbitrability. Manfred wanted the clubs to mediate first. And they did, but couldn't come to a resolution."

"Then, on March 22, with the new season about to begin, the Orioles made a pretty bold move by making a demand to play this new game over TV money before the American Arbitration Association — an outside body. According to the Nationals, the Orioles began 'asserting for the first time that MLB purportedly had a financial interest in the Nationals because of a $25 million advance that MLB had made to the Nationals.'"

The MLB indeed did give the Nationals $25 million in order to soothe Washington owner Ted Lerner's problems with having to license games at a discount. 

Baltimore is now seeking to have arbitration occur before an outside body in the AAA because the Orioles feel this $25 million payment makes the MLB a minority owner in the Nationals, and thus any internal arbitration could not be impartial. 

With this suit in New York court, the "Nationals are now seeking an emergency order to stop the arbitration before the AAA," the Hollywood Reporter article concludes. "The club contends it did not agree to arbitrate in this forum. The Nationals add, 'Nor could MASN have made any legitimate argument that the advance created an interest in the Nationals themselves: the Nationals had no obligation to repay the advance, and MLB had no right to reach into the Nationals' pocket to recover the money.'"

The MASN saga continues...

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