The dispute over Washington Nationals rights fees between the Nationals, MLB, MASN, and the Baltimore Orioles remains contentious. Earlier this week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred made some comments that favored the Nationals after a ruling by a MLB panel in favor of the team receiving higher rights fees. Manfred defended the panel and the fees, saying that “sooner or later, MASN is going to be required to pay those rights fees”.
Naturally, this isn’t sitting well with MASN and the Orioles, who are the majority owners of the RSN. MASN attorney Thomas Hall had some strong comments about what Manfred had to say.
Via the Washington Post…
On Friday, Thomas Hall, an attorney for MASN, which is majority owned and operated by the Baltimore Orioles, sent a letter to Judge Lawrence Marks, unhappy about Manfred’s comments. Hall referred to Manfred’s statements as “shocking” and “highly prejudicial and demonstrate that MASN cannot receive a fair and impartial rehearing of the telecast rights fees dispute in a forum controlled by MLB.”
“By his own statements, Mr. Manfred has shed all semblance of impartiality and removed all doubt that this dispute must either be kept by the Court for resolution on the merits or sent to an arbitration panel independent of Major League Baseball (“MLB”) if the Revenue Sharing Definitions Committee (“RSDC”) Award is vacated,” Hall wrote in the letter.
Well, it’s nice to see that everyone is getting along so well.
The Nationals have been receiving rights fees from MASN below what they feel was market value, and thusfar, the network has ignored the ruling by an MLB panel last year to pay the team an extra $20 million in fees per season. The dispute over the team’s rights fees has been going on since 2012 (!!!), and while a resolution appeared to have been reached last year, MASN isn’t exactly jumping at the bit to pay the team what MLB has decreed.
If you’re unaware about the MASN situation, it’s a giant mess. It was created in 2005 when the Expos moved to DC and became the Nationals, and the Orioles own a 90% stake in the network. The Nationals own the remaining 10%, and that stake will only increase to a maximum of 33% after 23 years. Because of that lower stake in the network, the Nationals are taking much less money home than the Orioles despite sharing the same market, creating a giant mess and turning them into second-class citizens on the RSN they own a chunk of.
Needless to say, it’s not an ideal situation, and MLB was essentially forced to insert themselves into the disagreement to get a fair resolution for both sides. After nearly a year, that league-mandated fair resolution still has MASN and the Orioles seeing red.