Collusion claim seems destined to fail

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The NFLPA’s claim that the league’s teams engaged in collusion during the 2010 uncapped year has ample merit.   If it ever gets to the merits of the case.

That may not happen.  The new lawsuit filed Wednesday by the union in an effort to secure more than $3 billion from the league faces two major hurdles:  the union knew or should have known in 2011 that there was collusion in 2010, and the union thereafter ratified any collusion by agreeing to the cap penalties imposed on the Cowboys and Redskins as a result of their failure to abide by the alleged agreement to collude.

The petition filed with U.S. Judge David Doty alleges that the claims presented are “entirely new,” but those claims flow from a set of facts that should have put the union on notice that something was amiss.  Apart from the collusion claim filed by the NFLPA in early 2011 regarding the lack of interest in restricted free agents during the uncapped year, there was ample evidence to support suspicion, or more, regarding the NFL’s plan to keep more money in the owners’ coffers and put less in the players’ pockets as a work stoppage was looming.

Prior to the launch of the uncapped year in early 2010, multiple teams cited internal budgets when addressing the reality that there would be no salary cap.  And to the extent that the actual spending by the 32 teams in 2010 suggested that perhaps the owners had an unwritten understanding as to the handling of the uncapped year, the NFLPA had full access to all contracts months before the new CBA was finalized, allowing the union’s lawyers to piece together enough circumstantial evidence to warrant full-blown litigation on the question of whether an informal salary cap had been established for the uncapped year.

Regardless of what the NFLPA knew or should have known before finalizing the current CBA and related legal documents, the paperwork seems to slam the door on any collusion claims relating to conduct in 2010.  As the CBA state at Article 3, Section 3(a) plainly states:  “The NFLPA on behalf of itself, its members, and their respective heirs, executors, administrators, representatives, agents, successors and assigns, releases and covenants not to sue, or to support financially or administratively, or voluntarily provide testimony of any kind, including by declaration or affidavit in, any suit or proceeding (including any Special Master proceeding brought pursuant to the White SSA and/or the Prior Agreement) against the NFL or any NFL Club or any NFL Affiliate with respect to any antitrust or other claim asserted in White v. NFL or Brady v. NFL, including, without limitation . . . collusion with respect to any League Year prior to 2011.”  (Emphasis added.)

Even if the 2011 CBA didn’t slam the door on a collusion claim arising from the uncapped year of 2010, the amendment to the CBA that resulted in the league and the NFLPA agreeing to the imposition of cap penalties on the Redskins and Cowboys in exchange for an increase in the salary cap operates, in essence, as a ratification of the release of collusion claims.  Indeed, the NFLPA should have realized, the moment the NFL asked the union to agree to take $46 million in cap space from the Redskins and Cowboys for treating the term “uncapped year” too literally, that the Redskins and Cowboys were being punished for refusing to collude.  By signing off on the cap penalties, the NFLPA reaffirmed its waiver of the collusion claims, since the mere request to strip cap space from the teams in question proved that collusion indeed occurred.

So why did the NFLPA go along with the cap penalties?  Because the NFL agreed to tinker with the salary cap formula in order to push the per-team limit higher in 2012 than it was in 2011.  If the salary cap had dropped during the first year of the new CBA, there’s a good chance that the contract of NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith wouldn’t have been renewed at annual meetings that began only a week or two after the new cap numbers were disclosed.

Thus, at first blush it appears that the NFLPA is trying to have it both ways.

41 responses to “Collusion claim seems destined to fail

  1. Its not about a secret cap. Its about front loading contracts during an uncapped year to gain an advantage in the capped years.

  2. De Smith is just trying to save his job again. Sooner or later the players will realize that he keeps them in court so they can’t realize how much of a crook he is.

  3. but the NFLPA could not use the contracts as a basis for the complaint because they were all approved by the league. It was not until after the new CBA that the NFL made the decision that those league approved contracts violated the gentleman”s agreement and assessed penalties that the NFLPA had tangible proof of collusion.

  4. “. . . collusion with respect to any League Year prior to 2011.””

    Florio, if you knew anything about law, you’d know that the NFLPA can declare the CBA null and void if the NFL knowingly withheld information that led to the signing of the contract.

    As a Skins fan, I’ve already gotten over the cap penalty. I just want Roger Goodell fired and banned from the NFL.

  5. D Smith is incompetent…always has and always will be….the only way the NFLPA could hurt themselves more would be if Billy King (NBAPA) was running the show

  6. Either way it has to help the Redskins & Cowboys who were obviously conspired on. I tell you what, I’ll take a settlement like this: Keep the cap space penalties imposed, give the Redskins home-cooking in Fed-Ex Field all home games for these 2 years, I’m cool. Dallas fans can speak on what they want done to be cool.

  7. $3 Billion? What a bunch of donkeys.

    It is increasingly apparent that the NFL needs to devise a strategy to create a corporate structure for the league where each team is a sub-entity.

    Then they can start paying the players 1/2 or less of what they do now, avoid collusion arguments, anti-trust exemption and negotiate merchandise contracts without having to deal with this legal BS.

    $3 Billion…..and these guys tried to identify with common labor unions. What a joke.

  8. zaggs says:
    May 23, 2012 3:41 PM
    Its not about a secret cap. Its about front loading contracts during an uncapped year to gain an advantage in the capped years.

    Hey idiot if it’s an “uncapped” year then there is no cap. Maybe if you remove Goodells nuts sack from your forehead you could read clearer.

  9. rules against collusion are in accordance with antitrust laws, right? which protect the public interest, right? which means collusion is against the public’s interest, right? so could fans of one or more of the 27 teams that colluded to keep salaries low and did not win a super bowl sue the nfl claiming the collusion prevented their home team from assembling the best possible group of players and therefore winning more games? just saying…

  10. Economic Duress=
    Unlawful use of economic pressure and/or threats intended to overcome the free will of a person, in order to force him or her to an involuntary agreement or to do something that he or she would not otherwise do.

    Either agree to the cap penalties or the cap goes to $110 mil says mara and goddell to d. smith in a dimly lit back room.

  11. While everyone is law suit happy these days. When will someone file a class action suit for the fans agains the NFL and direct TV? Lets all be honest, this is one law suit that we can all agree on. There is no reason, that a game that makes its money via the advertising $ needs to charge you $300 to watch every game. They are using our public airwaves to broadcast the games… they should be free and get the money from advertising… I not saying it should be free but the price that it costs is way overboard…

    Please fix this for the fans first you millionaire owners and players…..

  12. steelcitywhitty says:
    May 23, 2012 3:45 PM
    It was not until after the new CBA that the NFL made the decision that those league approved contracts violated the gentleman”s agreement and assessed penalties that the NFLPA had tangible proof of collusion.
    Are you talking about the same penalties that the NFLPA agreed to, when they gave permission to the league to take cap space away from the Cowboys and Redskins?

  13. As a Redskins season ticket holder, I called the NFLPA within 48 hours of the announcement of the $36 million cap penalty, and told legal that they were nuts to agree to penalize the Redskins, since the Redskins are more responsible for NFL salary increases than any other team in the league. I further told them that what they agreed to had opened the NFL to huge liabilities, even potentially anti-trust.

    I told them I could not believe they could make that mistake.

    They did not argue against anything I said, and advised me they would be issuing a major statement within the next day or so. That statement never came.

    If the NFL or NFLPA thinks their actions protect the brand in any way, they are nuts. Owners and players should be ticked off. I am because I am paying a lot of money for this crap.


  14. The league didn’t withold any information from the NFLPA at any time. The NFLPA has access to every player contract every year!

    The NFLPA is a bunch of greedheads, and they’ll do anything to suck the last drop of blood out of the NFL and ruin the game. Three billion in damages? Smith is out of his freaking mind.

    I don’t understand why so many cry about Roger Goodell. He makes the players and the owners follow the rules. Only those trying to cheat need to fear him.

  15. Keep up the good work, Roger. I wish I had a picture of Jerry Jones getting spanked over Roger’s knee.

    Good luck to RG3 when he has 5 rookies blocking for him next year.

  16. @stoutfiles

    Nothing was withheld. I remember reading an article on the Ravens website where Ozzie Newsome said that the team had set it’s own salary cap and that he expected every other team would do the same thing. I’m sure other GM’s and owners came out and said the same thing that Ozzie did at that time. If I can find the information then it wasn’t withheld from anyone.

  17. I wonder if the NFLPA knew all along this would be a bust.

    Now that they have a statement from the NFL saying everything PRE-current CBA is null/void..

    Can’t they say.. “Hey.. null/void.. no suspension for Vilma and the rest of the Saints/bounty players.”

    The NFL can’t have it both ways..

  18. What is wrong with the NFLPA & it’s players? Sueing the league for injuries back in the dinosaur ages, Sueing the Commish for defamation of character,etc! I’m Sueing the players for being idiots!!! Get over it fellas…don’t we have labor peace?

  19. Disagree.

    The NFLPA doesn’t have to prove it was aware of 2010 collusion before it signed the 2011, they only have to prove that the NFL told them there wasn’t or fraudulently concealed evidence that there was.

    And your position that agreeing with the penalties “reaffirmed” or was a “ratification” of their waiver of claims is so far out of left field that I have to wonder if you were ever really a lawyer. The two are completely unrelated.

    Why would the NFLPA stand in the way of the NFL taking action that would prove collusion? Especially if not doing so got them something in return.

    Of course the NFLPA is trying to have it both ways. So is the league. Why wouldn’t they?

    Doesn’t make them legally wrong.

  20. Nice article Florio. It is about as concise and clear as any news item that must quote contract language can be.

    It seems to me that the NFLPA got out-lawyered on this one.

  21. What all this says is there is a lot of stink in the whole NFL community.
    Sure – things are deodorized and we see the “pretty face” of the NFL on Sundays, but behind the scenes, its just like any other corporate entity.
    Lots of politics, back stabbing, dirty deeds, low/no ethics.
    Why would anyone expect the NFL to operate at a higher standard than its illustrious brethren in the corporate world?

  22. I heard somethig on Espn 980 that said the skins would have had a cap hit of like 205mil during the uncapped year…and the cowboys ~176mil. Seeing as how they did collude and seemingly set a limit of around 125, clearly jones and snyder didnt play nice. Cap moves and signings to put 205mil on the books in the uncapped year? I get that there were no rules so they didnt break any, but im glad snyder didnt get away with it.

  23. The players are complaining about teams not wanting to give them large new contracts during the uncapped year (2010) when the majority of the money would have had to been guaranteed. Take Sidney Rice for example. He was set to make 600K in 2010 and only made 550K in 2009. According to the previous CBA the teams could not give him a salary in the new contract that was more than 30% of that 2009 number. So if the Vikings wanted to pay him 12 mil for two years then 10 mil would have been guaranteed. That is not bad for a 3 to 5 year deal but on a two year deal teams would be looking at giving players another new deal two years later or sooner. Unfortunately, teams did not want to take that risk. Now the players are claiming collusion. OK. I think the guaranteed money is what prevented most deals.

  24. Hilarious…. The NFLPA is trying to have it both ways… like the owners did with their uncapped-but-in-spirit-capped year?

    I don’t care that it might burn down their own house, I hope this goes up in flames, those crooked owners (who I normally back) deserve it on this one.

  25. 1st suspicions are not proof. If the NFLPA had said we think they have a secret salary cap because all the salaries about the same as it was in a capped year the judge would say “so? Prove it” Just because they salaries were close to previous means nothing

    2nd The Redskins, Cowboys and a few other teams did overspend. The NFL would have just pointed to them and said “see these teams spent this much, there is no secret salary cap” Its only after the NFL punished those teams for spending that much that there is proof that there was a secret salary cap and teams that did not stick to it would be punished.
    The real question is going to be does NFLPA have the right to sue since the NFL lied and does signing off on the Redskins and Cowboys punishments forfeit their right to sue

  26. “Hey idiot if it’s an “uncapped” year then there is no cap. Maybe if you remove Goodells nuts sack from your forehead you could read clearer.”

    Zaggs is right. Put it more simply-

    There are four years. First year uncapped, next three years capped. The following is permissible:

    Sign player A for $30 million in Y1.
    Sign player A for $8 million/yr for each year.

    The next scenario presents a problem:

    Sign player A for $30 million in Y1, then $1 in Y2, Y3, Y4. While the contract is perfectly valid in Y1, from the perspective of Y2, it becomes a contract contrary to the CBA from that year, since the player has a contract for his services that violates that year’s cap.

    “While it may not be what you want to focus on, the lawsuit is actually about a secret cap”

    This is true. I think that they likely colluded, either formally or informally. Unfortunately, the Union both waived this issue per the CBA, and then ratified the waiver by allowing the punishment of the Redskins and the Cowboys to proceed. That’s going to be hard to overcome.

    Remember- not everything unjust is illegal, and not everything illegal is unjust.

  27. @thecgroup – did you miss the commercial about Sunday Ticket being reduced to $200 this year?

    The problem isn’t so much the price as it is the fact that you can only get it with DirecTV. I have DirecTV and love it and wouldn’t dream of having any other TV provider. But people who for whatever reason can’t get DirecTV are shut out. So there’s a suit for you.

    The problem with all these lawsuits is that it’s we the fans that are going to get stuck with the bill. As the NFL asks every team to pony up to help the NY office pay all these legal fees, the owners will jack up ticket prices and we will be the only ones who get hosed.

  28. Can anyone tell me how the department of labor is not involved in this yet ?I mean are they not supposed to look in to things just like this . Im not the smartest person in the world nor do i want to see this get to that point but i thought that was their job . man this is nuts

  29. As much as I hate the power trip Goodell is on, he is not responsible for this. The NFL Executive committee , spear headed by John Mara , gave this directive to Goodell to enforce. Mara is responsible for this mess. The Saints and Raiders are lucky they aren’t in the NFC East or they would have had cap space taken as well. This will be the beginning of a Bambino like curse on the Giants and their dirty organization. I mean really, how many times can a 9-7 team win a Super Bowl??

  30. From a Saints fan:

    Cowboys and Redskins are both 2 of my least favorite teams in the league. I hate both of you with a passion. But my hatred for Goodell is even worse. He has a way of playing a game of gotcha with players, coaches and the entire teams such as the saints, cowboys, redskins and patriots. His tactics for punishments are really sickening to me and i think its a sick game to him. He is twisted in the head. Goodell must go. The absolute worst Commissioner and maybe even the worst man i have ever seen. As much as it kills me to say this, i am behind the Cowboys and Redskins on this one. I hope Goodell gets fired and i hope you both get back all of your cap money and we get back our coaches and players. I am so sorry for all of the other fans who cannot and refuse to see the disgusting and sick person Goodell is. I am so sorry for all of you. But when Goodell comes and plays a game of gotcha with your team, i can promise you that i will not be here to support you. The way people have dragged the Saints name through the mud has put me over my limits. Some of the things that people have said about my beloved Saints makes me never want to forgive any of you.

  31. Of course they KNEW or SHOULD HAVE KNOWN. The Union also came to the realization that had they filed a Collusion Suit there would never have been an agreement reached on the new CBA while said suit was pending. They CHOSE the safer route, “Labor Peace” With the above clause as part thereof.
    Their suit is a bit disingenuous in light their knowledge at the time of agreeing to the CBA.
    Once again, the Union show just how inept it is!

  32. Does the NFLPA wake up in the morning everyday thinking of new things to sue the league for. This is ridiculous and it’s taking the fun out of the good things in the off season like young players developments and the schemes teams plan to run

  33. The Kardashians have to be jealous. You can’t script all this crap. The bounty, the NFLPA, The NFL, Goodell, Vilma, D. Smith, Williams, Payton, Loomis, a dozen or more pluses popped for drugs. Guns, dope and dogs. Who is screwing who? The fans are PAYING for this crap. Nixon is laughing his butt off, even crazy butted, wild man Charles Manson would be proud of it all. To top it all off, these guys are getting MILLIONS, no, BILLIONS of OUR money. And everybody is just following along and glorifying this crap. Man, you can create, start and do a lot of crap with this kind of money and they are, and WE ARE PAYING FOR IT!!! Where’d the Skins get the 36 mil? Cowboys 10 mil, Vilma 10k Goodell 7.5 mil? From us. What a job. Geez, most of us have worked like dogs for YEARS and couldn’t or wouldn’t dare try this crap. We’d all be in JAIL…..FACT. I used to think boxing and wrestling were crooked. Hahahaha. THE NFL IN IT’S ENTIRETY IS NOTHING BUT SCUMBAGS. They make the MOB look like amateurs!!! Too much to comprehend. Only the government can outdo these guys and THAT may not be for long! $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ and more$$$$

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