Play of The Week !

A jury leaves N.F.L. players licking their chops, owners their wounds

IN THE RELENTLESS STRUGGLE BETWEEN ATHLETES and team owners for a bigger slice of professional sports' financial pie, control of free agency has been the utensil of choice. Last week, following a 36-day trial, a federal court dropped the owners' favorite fork on the floor, ruling that the National Football League's limited free-agency plan was illegal and awarding four players $1.6 million in damages. The decision will probably lead to a less restrictive agreement and higher salaries.

Players contended that the existing plan kept salaries low and curtailed their ability to move freely to higher-paying teams; the owners argued that fewer...

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