SBD/May 23, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

NFLPA Files Federal Collusion Charge Against NFL Due Stemming From '10 Season



The NFLPA filed a federal collusion charge against the NFL because of the league’s alleged agreement not to frontload salaries during the '10 season that had no salary cap. The complaint alleges it cost the players at least $1B. However, it is unclear given the current CBA includes language wiping away legal challenges from before the signing of the '11 labor contract if the players will be able to move forward with the case. “The filing of these claims is prohibited by the CBA,” the NFL said in a statement. The NFLPA in its complaint said the '11 CBA only cleared existing legal challenges, and the players only recently learned of the alleged collusion. The NFLPA in the lawsuit charged, “NFL and the Owners conspired and agreed amongst themselves, according to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, to impose salary cap 'rules' on themselves.” The complaint alleges the league had a secret $123M salary cap in '10, and it was violated by four teams: the Cowboys, Raiders, Redskins and Saints. The complaint also says that in March when the NFLPA agreed to the salary cap reduction penalties on the Redskins and Cowboys for not abiding by the allegedly collusive policy, the union did not know what the cuts were because the two teams had not abided by the alleged collusion.

APPEALS FROM REDSKINS, COWBOYS DENIED: Arbitrator Stephen Burbank yesterday rejected the Redskins' and Cowboys' appeals from cuts to their salary caps in ‘12 and ‘13. The two teams were punished for allegedly frontloading salaries in the uncapped year of ‘10, which the NFL had told teams not to do. However, it was not a formal policy. The two teams' only option now appears to be to fight the decision in court, if they so choose. Burbank relied heavily on the NFL's bylaws allowing changes to occur with 24 of 32 owner votes. In essence, he ruled that the league's March 27 vote for the penalties should have marked the end of internal NFL procedures on this matter. Burbank disclosed in his decision that on March 22, the two clubs sent a letter to the Management Council, the league's labor-negotiating arm, withdrawing from the entity for purposes of this issue. Burbank rejected that move. “The clubs attempt selectively to revoke the Management Council’s authority through the March 22 letter was ineffective as a matter of law,” he wrote in the 12-page decision. Notably, the fact that the NFLPA agreed to the cap cuts, which are to be redistributed to other clubs, did not weight heavily in his decision. An NFL source said Burbank might have even reached the same conclusion had the NFLPA not agreed to the cap hits, though it certainly made the decision simpler. The two teams, in a joint statement, said, “We pursued our salary cap claim pursuant to the CBA and we respect and will abide by the arbitrator's decision to dismiss. We will continue to focus on our football teams and the 2012 season.”
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