Sports Law Blog
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Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Cubs to Block One Rooftop View: The Chicago Cubs have begun making preparations to block the view from the one rooftop that has not agreed to share its profits with the team. The team is being mum about the exact plans, but has hired lighting and scenery experts from Broadway to block the view from the rogue rooftop without impeding the views of other fans or disrupting the scenery of Wrigley Field.

As I discussed in January, the Cubs reached a settlement with 11 of 13 rooftop owners. The 12th followed suit this week, leaving only one owner in opposition to the team. However, the final owner has no interest in settling with the team and is eager to take the Cubs to court.

His eagerness raises an interesting point on legal strategy. The Cubs want to avoid court for two reasons: (1) if they lose, then all rooftop owners will be able to view the games for free, and perhaps more importantly, (2) if the Cubs have to go to court, their financial records will become public. This of enormous interest to both the team and Major League Baseball. As Carol Slezak writes:

    I wonder how much money the Cubs get from WGN-TV, Tribune Co.'s superstation, for broadcast rights to the games? If Tribune Co. is underpaying the Cubs for the TV rights, the Cubs would be shortchanging their major league baseball partners when it comes to revenue sharing, wouldn't they? Not to mention their fans, who for most of their lives have been subject to the Cubs' ''we're too poor'' mantra.

The ending of this saga will have interesting implications, both legal and sports-related. It looks like the Cubs are picking a fight, but this may be one scrum they will later wish they had avoided.