Collusion? I Don't Want To Talk About It. Well, You Have To.
The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has reinstated the 2012 collusion case brought forth by the NFL Player's Association over penalties enacted on four franchises for violating a salary cap that didn't officially exist at the time. This is not a decision that the league committed collusion, rather it is the court saying that the NFLPA has a right to argue it's case; something that Judge Doty had previously struck down.
The NFLPA is of course happy with the chance to make its case.
"Our union will always pursue and protect the rights of its players. We are pleased that the Eighth Circuit ruled that players have the opportunity to proceed with their claims. Through discovery and a hearing, we can understand how collusion took place. We have notified the NFL of its obligations to preserve all relevant documents and communications."
The NFLPA argued that the penalties imposed on the franchises proves that the league's members colluded to prevent a fair and open market for players when there was supposed to be an anticipated free-for-all frenzy. The mechanism of free agency drives the overall salaries of the league, and if there was a true free-for-all, players in general would have benefited from the rising salaries.
It's an unfamiliar position to be on the same side of the fence as Washington fans, but supporters of both franchises have been united over the last two plus seasons in their disdain for Jon Mara and the NFL's penalty for violating the "spirit of the cap" with their salary-cap maneuverings from earlier in the decade. Most fans remember that each team basically structured contracts or released players in order to take advantage of the league's uncapped season of 2010 while the NFL and NFLPA were bickering over the next collective bargaining agreement.
For these moves, each team was penalized with a loss of salary-cap space that handcuffed each organization's ability to manage their player financials for the 2012 and 2013 season. The Dallas Cowboys lost $5 million in cap space for each year, while Washington lost a whopping $18 million per season. The cap space taken from these two teams was then divided equally amongst 28 of the other teams. Two other franchises, New Orleans and Oakland, were said to also be in violation but did not receive financial penalties. Instead, they were not allowed to share in the payouts.
The uncapped year of 2010, sans the handshake agreement, could have led to teams doing just what Dallas and Washington did. Using the opportunity to shed bad contracts from their books and thus creating additional spending space that would have increased the earnings of other players in the league. The question is, with how the league doled out the additional cap space, does the NFLPA have the necessary proof that the actions of the league affected their constituency the way they claim.
Now, with this recent ruling, they will at least get the opportunity to present their case in a court of law, rather than the court of public opinion. Fans of the Washington and Dallas franchises have overwhelmingly decided on that case a long time ago.