The day after the 2012 NFL regular season ended, Judge David Doty convened a hearing on the question of whether the NFLPA should be able to pursue a collusion claim arising from the salary-cap penalties imposed in March on the Cowboys and the Redskins. The day after the 2012 NFL regular season ended, Judge Doty issued a decision.
In short, the NFL removed a total of $46 million in cap space from the two teams for treating the uncapped year of 2010 as, well, uncapped. The NFLPA, despite agreeing to the cap penalties in exchange for an agreement by the league to artificially increase the 2012 salary cap to a level north of the 2011 number, claimed that comments made in the aftermath of the announcement of the cap penalties disclosed for the first time that shenanigans were occurring in 2010.
The NFL argued that any potential claim for collusion was barred by the simple fact that the parties agreed in 2011 to end all litigation when finalizing a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Judge Doty agreed, finding that “the NFLPA released the claims it attempts to assert in the underlying action.”
As a result, the settlement agreement won’t be reopened, and the NFLPA won’t be able to pursue upwards of $1 billion in damages from the NFL.
While the union may now appeal the outcome, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has a reputation for being conservative and, thus, pro-business. Which makes it highly unlikely that Judge Doty’s decision would be overturned.
Indeed, most judges regardless of politics prefer to see settled cases remain settled. In this case, the NFL and the NFLPA resolved their differences, including any claim that there was collusion in 2010 regarding the uncapped year that, based on the penalties imposed on the Cowboys and Redskins, wasn’t really uncapped.