MANHATTAN (CN) – Unable to mediate a dispute over television fees with their cross-town rivals, the Washington Nationals asked a judge Monday to stop the Baltimore Orioles from forum shopping.
The two teams have been battling for more than a decade over the revenue from the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, and had agreed to submit to arbitration before the commissioner of Major League Baseball last fall if mediation between the teams fell apart.
That process is set to begin now after mediation concluded in March without resolution, but the Nationals contend now that the Orioles have improperly sought relief from the American Arbitration Association instead of the MLB.
The Nationals brought a petition to stay arbitration this morning in Manhattan Supreme Court, claiming the Orioles failed to disclose to the AAA it already had pending arbitration before the league or that it had previously requested the commissioner weigh in on the dispute.
“The Orioles expressly invoked the Commissioner’s jurisdiction to determine arbitrability of this dispute, and never suggested that the AAA was the proper venue to determine arbitrability,” the petition states. “The Orioles cannot properly do so now.”
The Nationals, formerly known as the Montreal Expos, relocated to D.C. in 2005.
With the move, Nationals games were to be broadcast on MASN, a joint venture between the two teams created that year. Under the deal, the Nationals would reap 10 percent of the broadcasting revenue but would eventually gain a larger stake in the network.
Last June, the Nationals claimed the Orioles and MASN had failed to make their yearly cash flow distribution.
The Washington team sought to go straight to arbitration before the MLB or proceed with mediation, and the Nationals say the Orioles waited months to raise the objection over the league’s purported financial interest in the Nationals.
To this end, the Orioles point to a $25 million advance that the MLB paid the Nationals to cover shortfalls in MASN fees during 2012 and 2013.
The Nationals state the advance never granted the league a financial interest in the team, and that the team had repaid the advance with interest by November 2018.
Orioles spokeswoman Kristen Hudak did not return a phone call seeking comment Monday.