WASHINGTON—The NFLPA clarified Wednesday that it had no role in determining the salary cap penalties that were imposed on the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys and that it was not aware that collusion had taken place when those two teams were issued salary cap reductions by the NFL.
The union did not learn of collusion by NFL owners and teams until on or about March 12, when league officials publicly all but admitted to colluding as evidenced by various media reports.
“NFL owners, NFL spokespeople [and] NFL executives all started to spill their guts and say that the reason for all this is because there has been a directive by the league to obey a fantasy salary cap,” said Jeffrey Kessler, the union’s lead outside counsel. “We were frankly stunned when that spilled out in the public record, but spill it did.”e
The union’s side said it believes that it’s now very clear that the collusion claims, which were filed Wednesday, were available to be asserted.
“The NFL admitted that there was no salary cap in 2010, and any behavior by the teams would be lawful and proper,” Kessler told reporters late Wednesday afternoon, adding that the league never gave any indication of a so-called mythical salary cap. “The league said that they believed the teams (Redskins and Cowboys) had a competitive advantage, which was unfair, based on their behavior.”
Kessler was joined on a media conference call by joint lead outside counsel David Barrett and NFLPA spokesman George Atallah.
“Something like this is a very serious claim, a very complicated claim, and it’s not something that we could have discovered in the few hours that we had to agree to the penalties,” Atallah said.
Though proving collusion is regarded as difficult, the NFLPA feels there’s no shortage of evidence on its side in this case. Kessler went as far as to say the amount of evidence available in the public realm already has surpassed that of the MLBPA’s successful collusion case against Major League Baseball owners in the 1980s.
“I actually think the evidence here will be much more compelling and direct than in the Major League Baseball case,” he said. “We expect there’s going to be a lot of evidence in this particular case.”
On the call, the union made it clear that Tuesday’s decision by arbitrator Stephen Burbank to deny the appeals by the Redskins and Cowboys of their salary cap punishments had nothing to do with Wednesday’s collusion claim filing. The timing was purely coincidental, Kessler said.
“This action is unaffected by what Professor Burbank did yesterday,” Kessler said. “This case is not about the penalties on the Cowboys and the Redskins in 2012. This is for a violation of the Reggie White Settlement Agreement. The court in Minnesota has the exclusive right to enforce that agreement. We had no choice of where to file it, except in this court.”
According to the NFLPA, it filed the case Wednesday because it only learned of the alleged collusion within the last couple of months. The players are entitled to lost salaries that they would have lost in 2010, and the damages in this case are strictly going to be for the salaries lost in 2010.
Kessler said the players’ side was shocked that the league’s side brazenly, openly admitted to collusion in its public comments.
“I think the amount of evidence, frankly, is extraordinary without any discovery,” he said. “You can read and watch the evidence yourself … and you can decide for yourself.”
By Khalil Garriott