Collusion case could be an all-in gamble for key NFL, NFLPA personnel

Getty Images

As the dust continues to settle on Wednesday’s surprising move by the NFLPA to allege that the NFL engaged in collusion during the uncapped year of 2010, one point is becoming more and more clear.

Someone failed to slam the door, or failed to keep the door open, on the possibility of a belated claim that the NFL teams secretly agreed to an unwritten salary cap during a season in which there wasn’t supposed to be one.

It’s a point that sports lawyer David Cornwell, head of the NFL Coaches Association and documented critic of the current NFLPA leadership, raised with PFT this morning.  Either the NFL and its lawyers failed when drawing up the relevant paperwork in August 2011 and March 2012 to ensure that the NFLPA wouldn’t be able to make a future claim for pre-2011 collusion, or the NFLPA and its lawyers failed when drawing up the relevant paperwork to leave the door open for a collusion case if/when evidence arose that the teams had secretly agreed to a salary cap in the uncapped year.

Without question, this will be the first battle in the new collusion war.  Did the NFLPA fail to preserve the collusion claim, either when agreeing to the new CBA last year or when agreeing to penalize the Redskins and Cowboys this year?  In turn, did the NFL fail to take all steps necessary to defuse the collusion claim, either in the CBA paperwork or in the 2012 amendment to the labor deal that penalized the Redskins and Cowboys for, essentially, refusing to engage in collusion?

The outcome will either kill the collusion case, or make it so strong that the NFL will be squeezed into paying a bunch of money to the players — or making a bunch of concessions that weren’t made during the CBA process, such as shifting all appeals away from Commissioner Roger Goodell or ensuring that the regular season never will expand from 16 to 18 games, and that the preseason never will shrink from four games to two.

The broader question is whether the party that loses this key opening skirmish will then hold accountable the folks who failed either to preserve the collusion claim or to defeat it.  As Cornwell explains it, the “collusion case boils down to either [NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith or NFLPA outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler] committed malpractice by including collusion in the release or [NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell or NFL general counsel Jeff Pash] did by not including it.”

The bigger risk, in our view, falls on Goodell and Pash.  When lawsuits are resolved, the presumption is that all past claims, asserted or not, will be extinguished forever and the parties will move forward with a clean slate.  But the paperwork, which routinely is prepared by the party that was sued, needs to contain the right language to make all claims, asserted or not, go away.

From the NFLPA’s perspective, there’s nothing to lose, other than the goodwill of the league office.  If, however, it turns out that the NFL failed to ensure that the slate was indeed clean, the NFL owners will demand a full and complete explanation.

And they will be flabbergasted.

29 responses to “Collusion case could be an all-in gamble for key NFL, NFLPA personnel

  1. and there you have it… the NFLPA has nothing to lose so lets just go ahead and sue and see what happens. How is it no one see’s a problem with this kind of thinking in our society?

  2. While I would love Mara and Goodell get what is coming to them for the Washington/Dallas penalty, I think the PA will fall flat on this one.

    They always seem to be a day late and a dollar short. I think De Smith was so interested in saving his job, he forgot the big picture.

    Should be interesting to see.

  3. From the NFLPA’s perspective, there’s nothing to lose, other than the goodwill of the league office.


    This is the same NFLPA who can’t be bothered with safety issues for the players. Requiring mouthgards, leg pads, the latest in concussion resistant helmets are not their concern. If it doesn’t easily and directly translate into money for the NFLPA or players, they bury their heads in the sand.

  4. The fans are the ones who get screwed… If owners have to pay an extra $3 Billion, all that really means is that the owners have to charge the fans extra in tickets, parking, and concessions to make up the $3 billion… Just so that the multi-millionare athletes (who will be broke in 5 years regardless of the money they make) can make a few extra million.


  5. There’s no doubt in my mind that the NFL collided on 2010. They then tried to use the new CBA to avoid punishment. The arrogance of the league is outstanding. The stupidity of the NFLPA to not protecting themselves in case of undiscovered collusion cases.

    Despite that I hope the NFLPA wins. The punishment of two teams that refused to engage in collusion is terrible and losing this case would send a message to the league that what they did was wrong. And judging from the comments of the Giants’ owner saying the two teams were lucky to not have lost draft picks.

  6. I get so tired of hearing the media and NFL fans talk about how the NFL is an “empire” and “the most powerful thing in sports” or ” virtually untouchable”…..Empires come and go.
    The NFL might get it’s head handed to it on this one. King Roger should be afraid. Very afraid.
    Baseball owners suffered a huge blow with their collusion case in the 1980s. Some owners never recovered and it really emboldened the players union indirectly fueling the strike of 1994/95.

  7. Imagine how much lower ticket prices would be if the NFL didn’t have to spend all this $$$ fighting off every single stupid lawsuit by the NFLPA.

  8. “From the NFLPA’s perspective, there’s nothing to lose,”

    They will just alienate more fans, the people spending money to watch them, allowing them to earn millions of dollars. Not to mention the 10’s of million of dollars in legal fees.

  9. Let us remember that it is lawyers advising the NFLPA. The Lawyers stand to make more money of these things are drawn out. And even more if they go to court. I have a feeling there is a conflict of interest in the advice the NFLPA is getting on these matters.

  10. bigjdve says:May 24, 2012 9:32 AM

    While I would love Mara and Goodell get what is coming to them for the Washington/Dallas penalty, I think the PA will fall flat on this one.

    Why is it Mara & Goodell’s fault. The resolution might have been proposed by John Mara, BUT 32 TEAMS HAD TO VOTE ON IT.

  11. Lawyers and bloggers are cut from the same cloth….slowly bleeding us to death with drawn out litigation and drawn out story’s……

  12. It’s insanity that the NFL is at this point. Why would you gamble with the health of the league over the Redskins and Cowboys being aggressive within the rules?

    Goodell must not know much about strategic leadership. Or football for that matter. Sometimes, you’ve got to punt.

  13. Collusion case could be an all-in gamble for key NFL, NFLPA personnel

    Misleading headline. This is a gamble by the NFLPA, not the NFL. While there is potential fallout from this case for NFL personnel, they did not instigate this case.

    Not sure what fallout there really would be for the NFLPA, you stated in your article that they have nothing to lose other than goodwill with the NFL office. DeMaurice waited until he was reelected before pursuing this case so he has nothing to worry about.

    It’s a shame the NFLPA isn’t this proactive when it comes to player safety or retired player issues. It’s consistantly about the short term monetary gain over the longterm benefits. Maurice and the lawyers got theirs, everyone else is on their own.

  14. Clearly the NFLPA is owed $3 Billion & that they are making this move based on the good of the game.

  15. And the lawyers laugh all the way to the bank…

    Sounds like De Smith and Roger GOoDell are competing to see whose ego is the largest.

    The idea that the owners would have engaged in this, and done so for a single year, sounds like wishful thinking on the part of the NFLPA. Everyone knew a salary cap was coming back, and was going to be part of any CBA that was agreed to. The owners didn’t need to collude on this because it wasn’t going to be part of the CBA going forward.

  16. What about this years collusion, they do have the right to sue over this years collusion. You can’t tell me that not 1 single restricted free agent received an offer from another team without the teams agreeing that none of them would try to poach other teams restricted free agents!!

  17. As a fan, this means nothing to us.

    The games will still be played each week.

    I will still watch them.

    Prices may or may not increase for whatever reason each year…and I will still go to the game and buy a $10 beer.

  18. The WINNER is Kessler the Lawyer, he will get paid win or lose, what a deal and he has so union lawyers to thank. The fans end up paying for this nonsense as well.

  19. The NFLPA is bent on killing the Golden Goose. Good bye NFL your greed, short sightedness, and stupidity will be your downfall.

  20. IF the NFLPA successfully sues the owners… Does this mean Redskins and Cowboys will not have to pay anything since both organizations never colluded ??

  21. I will never understand why people side with hte players or the NFLPA on anything. they seem to be trying to kill this league at all costs, they want to make this like baseball, where only big market teams can be contenders year in and year out.

    a slaray cap maintains comeptetive balance, they knew that if a couple owners, desperate to win went out and paid players MLB type contracts, the salary cap would never come back.

    snyder and jones threatened the competetive balance that makes this league great and should face consequences.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.