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Players Charge NFL Imposed Collusive Salary Cap

Posted  June 11, 2012

The National Football League Players Association has filed a collusion claim against the NFL, its clubs, and team owners alleging a secret $123 million per-Club salary cap during the 2010 uncapped season.

The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota just one day after that court upheld NFL sanctions against the Cowboys and the Redskins for front-loading player contracts in 2010.

In appealing the sanctions, Washington and Dallas argued that they violated no rules and, therefore, should not have been punished.  The NFL said that although there was no cap violation, the teams were being punished for improperly gaining a competitive advantage.

New York Giants owner John Mara commented that “[w]hat they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap.  They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole … full well knowing there would be consequences.”  This statement, which raised the question of how one violates the spirit of the salary cap during an uncapped year, was soon followed by the filing of the new collusion complaint.  The allegations in the complaint are based upon testimony and legal briefs from the unsuccessful appeal of the NFL penalty in addition to the John Mara statement.

Recently elected NFLPA President Domonique Foxworth said in a statement earlier this month that “[o]ur union recently learned that there was a secret salary cap agreement in an uncapped year.  The complaint today is our effort to fulfill our duty to every NFL player.  They deserve to know, above all, the facts and the truth about this conspiracy.”

According to NFL spokesperson Greg Aiello, the NFL’s position is that the collusion claim is prohibited both by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and separately by an agreement signed by the players’ attorneys last year.  Aiello stated, “[t]he claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed.  On multiple occasions, the players and their representatives specifically dismissed all claims, known or unknown, whether pending or not, regarding alleged violations of the 2006 CBA and the related settlement agreement.  We continue to look forward to focusing on the future of the game rather than grievances of a prior era that have already been resolved.”

However, in its press release on the new case, the NFLPA clarified that this collusion claim was previously unknown to the players, is entirely new, and therefore could not have been asserted in the Brady v. NFL case and is not barred by the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

When asked about the collusion claim, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded, “[i]t’s more litigation.  I’ve said before, this is not going to get resolved through litigation ….  It will get resolved through negotiation. It’s time to get to the table and negotiate.”

Tagged in: Antitrust Litigation,