Collusion claim could set the stage for a 2010 strike

Last year, rumors flew of a possible playoff strike.  Though we explained that such an assault would be illegal and ill-advised, Patriots linebacker Adalius Thomas reacted angrily to the mere mention of the existence of the rumors.

“To be blunt, it’s a flat-out,
bald-faced, capital-letters lie
,” Thomas said at the time.  “We’re not the ones who are
interested in not playing.  We want to play.  We’re not going on
We signed this agreement and we’re fine with
it.  We’re happy.  We don’t want to stop playing football.”

Of course, that was before the salary cap — and salary floor — disappeared, which has resulted in teams generally not spending big money on unrestricted free agents, not signing restricted free agents to offer sheets, and not signing their own players to lucrative long-term deals.  As the 2010 season approaches, player discontent has spiked, and rumors continue to persist of a walkout before the expiration of the current labor deal.

It would still be illegal and ill-advised, but there’s a way it could happen that would be legal, albeit possibly still ill-advised.

Article XXVIII, Section 16 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement gives the union the ability to terminate the labor deal prematurely upon a finding of one of more instances of collusion involving five or more clubs and causing injury to 20 or more players, or via proof by clear and convincing evidence that 14 or more clubs have engaged in collusion injuring one or more players.

Given the number of restricted free agents, a showing that teams agreed, overtly or implicitly, to not sign those players to offer sheets, would seem to be enough to prove collusion.

If the NFLPA hopes to try to terminate the agreement prematurely, the proceeding must disclose from the outset a desire to terminate the agreement, and the Special Master must find that the teams engaged in willful collusion with the intent of restraining competition among teams for players.

The challenge continues to be proving collusion.  No smoking gun will be available, unless someone says something really dumb (like A.J. Smith talking about the Chargers’ refusal to do long-term deals until the labor situation is resolved, and saying that the team isn’t being a “lone ranger” in that regard).  Thus, the union would rely heavily on circumstantial evidence, carefully pieced together in an effort to persuade the Special Master that an express or implied agreement not to spend money or sign players existed.

Then, if the agreement were to be terminated before the end of the season, the players could indeed strike.

Again, we’re not sure it’s the smartest thing to do.  But laying the foundation for a strike that would potentially scuttle the playoffs and the Super Bowl could be the best way to squeeze the NFL into doing a new deal on terms favorable to the players.

38 responses to “Collusion claim could set the stage for a 2010 strike

  1. Well, as long as they wait until after week 16 at least it won’t mess with the Fantasy Football season! LOL

  2. So now that every team has decided to make sound business decisions, you are calling it collusion? Yeah, good luck proving that one!

  3. I really can’t see how the NFLPA, absent a smoking gun could prove a collusion charge. Any amount of circumstantial evidence the NFLPA could put together could be refuted by the simple observation that teams were unwilling to part with draft picks to sign away RFAs because this was widely considered to be an especially good draft. It doesn’t take collusion for everybody’s scouts to conclude that a 1st plus a 3rd is worth more this year than it usually is, and determine that there aren’t many players worth giving up premium picks for. Moreover, it doesn’t take collusion for each team to conclude that a time of uncertainty in terms of labor relations is not necessarily a great time to be doing big, long-term contracts.

  4. Adalius Thomas flat-out told a bald faced lie, he did go on strike in the playoffs, alone. In fact it seems like he was on strike all of his miserable stay in New England. Thanks for ruining my evening Florio, by bringing up that loser.

  5. “Given the number of restricted free agents, a showing that teams agreed, overtly or implicitly, to not sign those players to offer sheets, would seem to be enough to prove collusion.”
    Less bidding and smaller contracts, given the contractual uncertainty and economy, doesn’t prove collusion any more than lower stock prices prove collusion amongst investment banks.
    The value of an investment (a player) is contingent on many factors. Many of those factors have turned against the transcedent rise of player salaries. Besides the economy and contractual uncertainty, there also seem to be a few franchises (Buffalo, Jacksonville) that have idiosyncratic incentives for not tying a future owner that may move the team to large scale deals that would infringe on a sale.
    At best, this is circumstantial evidence of potential collusion. There isn’t enough here for any reasonable Special Master to find collusion.
    The definition of “proof” change in the forty years since Florio was in law school?

  6. in short the union is looking for 5 TO’s that think they deserve money they don’t; then get a favorable judge to say so.

  7. Even if they can’t prove collusion, what is stopping all the players on the playoff teams from deciding to hold out once the post-season begins?

  8. In the midst of a hellacious winter storm in the north east, team buses owned by the Jets, Giants, Eagles, Redskins, and Patriots were involved in a freak multi vehicle freeway pileup causing injury to a total of 21 NFL players riding in the 5 vehicles.
    NFLPA head DeElmer Fudd immediately announced that all players were boycotting the balance of the season, as was their legal right. Only later was it pointed out to him that the word in the contract was “collusion” and it had a slightly different meaning.

  9. That’s it, Twinkie! Use your soapbox to stir the pot. The players don’t read this blog at all! Nothing will come of it. Keep on typing the word “collusion”.
    A few years ago (before this site existed) this ‘theory’ of collusion would not have the same opportunity to grow legs. Keep on bangin’ the drum. Don’t worry. If you don’t get your wish for a wild-cat strike this season, the season could get cancelled anyway. I’ll give you 3 chances to guess even one of the 3 possibilities. I’ll even spot you your wildcat scenario.

  10. well heck, maybe baseball can make up some lost ground if football strikes. i’m sure florio would love that.

  11. I’m really starting to lose interest in the NFL as are my buddies.
    A Super Bowl in New Jersey ?
    Can’t wait to see that one.
    Games played in Europe?
    Gotta love that as neither team has the home field.
    Owners talking about not making enough money?
    Enough all ready… you have anti trust exemptions.
    This whole thing is just turning into a greed game.
    When they move the Super Bowl overseas, that’s it for me with the NFL.
    Notoriously Fake League.
    I suggest you pay players to win,
    and losers get paid less.. like in the XFL.
    That was great.
    I really liked that.
    It will never fly because it made too much sense.

  12. Oh & T.O. is a perfect example of collusion.
    Who wouldn’t want that DIVA on their team?
    Player Please !

  13. Wonder if this has anything to do with Kevin Mawae complaining about not even getting a call from any teams…hmmm

  14. Sigh….dark times, they be a-coming….let’s get this settled so football can go on!
    Try Growth.

  15. Its too hard to prove collusion in the NFL. All the owners have to say is that it is bad business to sign long term deals until they know the structure of the new CBA.

  16. DeMaurice Smith is going to cause significant damage to the game of football in his narcissistic attempt to keep his name in the news. And to his clients as well.

  17. If this strike actually happened it would be so ridiculously horrible for both parties.
    If you take away the NFL in the middle of two wars and the worst recession this country has faced in 80 years, you think politicians wouldn’t get involved? Do owners really believe they could control them? Maybe initially. But with this economic and political climate, they would be betting that long term federal oversight wouldn’t become the rule.
    Fix the rookie wage scale. Turn to an 18 game season. Have transparency in the books. Provide a fund for forseeable future health impacts. Negotiate in good faith. Get it done.

  18. # Indyeagle says: July 10, 2010 11:07 PM
    So now that every team has decided to make sound business decisions, you are calling it collusion? Yeah, good luck proving that one!
    AMEN! The NFLPA needs to get some business minded people working for them instead of cry-baby finer-pointers. Then they’d be able to understand and make some progress.

  19. # funi says: July 10, 2010 10:45 PM
    No football in 2011 means 20% of players will be arrested, 50% will be Bengals!!
    If every football team has 53 players, then the entire league combined has 1696 players, not including practice squads. 20% of that is 340, and half of that is 170, which is more than 3x the amount of players on the Bengals’ roster.
    Still, that’s actually not entirely impossible.

  20. Didn’t the latest ( I believe Starcaps ruling) indicate that the NFL is one entity ?? If so, the act of not signing RFAs (if in fact it did happen) is not collusion, it’s one entity exercising it’s rights to not sign these guys. And if the ruling comes about that they are separate entities, what of it ?? Many individual companies do the same things…for example, nearly all shipping and freight companies have a fuel surcharge for shipments since those prices are in such flux, but there is nothing stopping one of those companies to drop the surcharge ?? At any rate, isn’t taking on most, if not all of the RFAs that were available a bit different ?? In nearly all those cases, you’d be giving a big contract and having to pay with pick(s) for a guy who probably had not proven himself….and for those that have, there are other reasons…for example, Ronnie Brown in Miami. Who’s going to give up the high pick and still pay a running back who is close to 30 the big bucks ? Doesn’t make sense….There would have to be a lot of ‘proof’ as you say….What has transpired does not indicate proof…

  21. Collusion? Here we go again!
    When we were kids, our moms told us the stove was hot! Some believed, some didn’t..
    No CBA, no huge paydays. The 2 best players in the league aren’t getting their deals, Brady and Manning! These players have an existing contract! They’ll play this year. Next year?
    Why would anyone guaruntee huge somes of money based on Faith? Believe in the goodwill of the Players Union? Really. Trust Goodell?
    All the Teams have uncertainty, will the players strike? Will they accept a Rookie wage scale? Will their be a Franchise tag? Will the economy continue to tank! Will their be any season ticket holders left when unemployment is over 10% ?
    Is uncertainty collusion? The only certainty is that Florio will twist, mutilate and fold reality that the owners are in cahoots about something!
    Collusion on a grand scale or common sense? I’m no Lawyer but, I think there are 53 active players per team, operating expenses and the NFL afterall is a business and not a social experiment! Florio maybe the government should take over the league? They’ll completely ruin it but, hey no collusion! No incentives…either!

  22. DeSmith was an incredibly bad choice for union boss. I get the feeling we, the fans, are going to get screwed the worst.

  23. Maybe the teams have figured out that most free agents are busts, and with a possible lockout/strike next season, who wants to give any player a a big signing bonus for that non existent year?

  24. “But laying the foundation for a strike that would potentially scuttle the playoffs and the Super Bowl could be the best way to squeeze the NFL into doing a new deal on terms favorable to the players.”
    If the players strike for the playoffs and football I will never for the remainder of my life spend a dime to attend games, purchase NFL merchandise or otherwise spend money in any way that could possibly end up back in a player’s pocket.
    I’ve flat out had it with the player’s greed the last few years and have fast become bored with the league. Any stoppage by the players or owners and they will never see any of my money again.
    The players and league better realize. Its a big world. There are many many many ways to entertain yourself. They will lose many fans as the result of a stoppage.

  25. Bring on the scabs!!
    The players make plenty of money, and the owners are in it to make money as well. If the players don’t like the way things are, let them get a real job.

  26. This is good news for Jets fans. If the players decide to go on strike before the playoffs in 2010 it won’t have any effect on the Jets season since their season will be over.

  27. It would be a big mistake on the part of the players to strike. Their best option is to continued to play under any circumstance unless they are locked out, after which they could garner public opinion, and seek relief through the courts and political pressure. We all know the players don’t have the solidarity it requires to strike sucessfully. Put the onus on the owners. Make them look like greedy bastards. with the NFL anti trust exemption, Congress can be persuaded by public pressure to side with the players (unless the republicans are able to take back the House in the fall), but the players have to accept a rookie cap (which they will), and play under a bad deal if need be to get public support.

  28. Well, yeah. Striking during the worst economy since the Great Depression is a brilliant stroke of genius. Go for it!

  29. As a Bolts fan, I can’t believe I’m about to agree with Raiders757m, but I am. Bring on the scabs! Let these idiot players who haven’t laid out a single dime of their own money to purchase and control and take the risks of owning a team see what it is like to work for a normal salary like everyone else. NO ONE has any sympathy for those overpaid, ungrateful ba$ turds. What I still can’t figure out is why some fans insist on buying hundreds of dollars worth of game tickets (particularly when they have saved virtually nothing for their own retirement) so that the players can make millions of dollars.

  30. Yet another example where one side tries to justify their actions and think that because they are going public with their reasons….that they are somehow winning the PR war….all the while every fan rolls their eyes at both sides crying about the other
    Billionaires arguing with millionaires will not see anyone win in the fans eyes

  31. First thing they should do is try sitting down and hammering stuff out with the league. So far it looks like no one is even trying. They do not want to discuss anything, for fear it would hurt their deal.
    Grow up, be men, and start talking.
    Better yet, let the fans do it. We are the ones truly at risk here. The owners, the league, and most of the players will not be hurting to any real extent, but the fans risk losing football. We will work out a deal that works best for the SPORT, and everyone will make more money as a result.
    Many fans are upset with the way the league behaves, and the way that many individual players behave. To strike, or to lockout, might just push that disgust into no longer watching or following football, which will eventually bite the league by decreasing revenue.
    Grow up and get it done. No more talk of strike or lockout without first some valid attempts at getting a deal done. So far I haven’t even seen a report of one side or another putting a deal they would like to see. Nothing.

  32. To Thomas, and everyone else:
    It’s a bold faced lie, not a bald faced lie.
    Bold face, like you were defiant and incredulous that somebody doubted you. As opposed to bald face, which I guess has something to do with whether or not you have a mustache.

  33. Screw the old dusty farts (owners). The players deserve the money. The current deal seems to be working for everyone except the owners. Don’t fix it if it is not broke (currently the NFL is more popular than ever). Go Union! Screwing the owners and their playoffs would be worth it. If the owners don’t cave I will quit watching football.

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