Technically, summer isn’t over. And so the NFL’s Summer of Law isn’t, either.
Today, the NFL and the NFL Players Association will meet in Minnesota before Judge David Doty regarding the bolt-from-the-blue collusion case that the union filed in May. The hearing starts at 2:00 p.m. ET.
The players want to reopen the now-dismissed Reggie White class action and pursue billions in damages for the league’s alleged imposition of a secret salary cap in 2010, a year that was supposed to have no cap at all. The argument gains significant momentum from the fact that the NFL slapped the Redskins and Cowboys with salary-cap penalties earlier this year for violating the “spirit” of the salary cap in 2010, even though there was no salary cap at all.
The union faces two key hurdles. First, the NFL vigorously has argued that all potential claims that were made or could have been made before the new labor deal was signed in August 2011 have been waived. It’s a common dynamic whenever lawsuits have been settled; the players’ only hope in this case comes from whether the NFL’s lawyers properly dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s in the paperwork.
Second, and as a more practical matter, the NFLPA seems to be trying to have it both ways. By agreeing to the cap penalties as the quid pro quo for a tinkering with the salary cap in 2012, which kept it from being lower than the team-by-team numbers in 2011, and now trying to argue that the penalties to which the NFLPA agreed prove that there was collusion, the NFLPA invites a very pointed question from Judge Doty. “Why,” he may ask, “did you not allege collusion the moment the NFL proposed punishing the Cowboys and Redskins for treating the uncapped year as anything other than an uncapped year?”
The union is confident that Judge Doty will rule in their favor, given the perception that he generally favors the players’ position. (Indeed, at one point the NFL filed a motion to have Judge Doty removed from his role as supervisor of the pre-2011 labor deals, based on the notion that he has a bias against the league.)
Regardless of how he rules, the case will be reviewed by one of the more conservative (and thus business friendly) federal appeals courts in the country. Which means that the Summer of Law will continue, until and perhaps through next summer, too.