Updated: March 2, 2019


Updated: July 3, 2028 – 3:05PM CDT

By Howard Heskin, sports business correspondent – Twitter @HowardHeskin1

Today the 4th Circuit Court of appeals unanimously ruled in favor of Comcast International, Dish Network, Disney Sports, Rodgers Communications, SKY UK, Foxtel and the other international media partners in the Planetary Extreme Baseball Association (PEBA) appeal from a Western District of North Carolina Federal Court Ruling dismissing PEBA’s suit to void the automatic renewal provisions of its 2024 media contract. The PEBA players Union filed an amicus brief supporting PEBA along with the International Sports Agent’s Association led by Scott Boras, Jr. As a result of the court’s ruling, the current media deal will stay in its current form through the end of the 2032 season.

At the end of the 2023 season PEBA was able to reach a wide-ranging international television and multimedia deal with a conglomerate of media partners for a $600 million dollars annual deal for broadcast and internet media rights for PEBA games and other PEBA related broadcasts. The initial 4-year deal was set to expire at the end of the 2028 season with an “opt-in” clause at the end of July 2028. PEBA could choose to unilaterally opt-out of the deal or renew for another 4-seasons at the same terms of the previous deal.

The suit brought by PEBA alleged that PEBA did not affirmatively opt-in to the contract through the legal theory of unilateral mistake and other various legal theories. The suit was instituted after an email was sent from Commissioner Edward ‘Harry’ Castle’s Gmail account stating “Sounds Great!” in response to an email from the leading representative of the media group asking if PEBA would want to renew its current contract. At the time, Castle was in Canton celebrating PEBA’s purchase of the now defunct NFL pro-football Hall of Fame. PEBA is in the initial planning stages of its own hall of fame and looking for busts to melt down. The current purchase will provide the necessary material for the future construction of the PEBA hall of fame.

The suit alleged that on June 25, 2028, Mr. Castle was attending the Fargo – Canton game when a Rob Raines home run off of George Lee in the 1st inning flew into the owner’s box striking Castle’s iPad that was leaning against his table while he was holding a large bucket of popcorn in his left hand and beer in his right hand. Unfortunately, there were no witnesses to where Castle’s hands were at the time since everyone in the box was attempting to catch the ball flying into the luxury box. Castle alleged that he did not affirmatively accept the terms, but was rather just attempting to download the contract that was sent to him. “That damn auto short-hand response in Gmail! I wish they got rid of that back in 2018!” Castle stated in his deposition. The District Court ruled that electronic signatures were valid and the responding email could be construed as formal acceptance. Since the contract did not explicitly state how the contract could be renewed, the email was ruled to be a valid acceptance of the terms. Without an independent evidence that Castle did not intend to respond other than his own testimony, the Court dismissed the case on summary judgement. The 4th circuit then ruled today affirming the District Court decision.

Today’s ruling is a blow to PEBA owners and players alike. PEBA has continued to grow in popularity with attendance and viewership continuing to grow exponentially. Analysts were all in agreement that PEBA would have likely have been able to negotiate a larger media deal by opting out of the deal in its current form.

The Court ruling also damages the current player’s union efforts to negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement. “We were hoping to take advantage of and be part of the negotiation process this season,” stated player’s union president Jim Klein. “It looks like ownership will not be as ‘flush’ with cash as we were expecting.”