- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The NFL Players Association on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit charging the NFL with colluding to impose “a secret $123 million per-Club salary cap” for the 2010 season. That season was to have no salary cap, as stipulated by the collective bargaining agreement between the sides.

The lawsuit followed by one day an arbitrator’s dismissal of the Redskins’ grievance challenging a $36 million salary cap penalty the league imposed in March.

The intent of the lawsuit is not to restore the Redskins’ salary cap space. Rather, the Redskins’ case served to elicit what the union considers to be evidence of collusion two years earlier.

“NFL owners, NFL spokespeople, NFL executives all started to spill their guts and say, well, that the reason for all this is because there had been a directive by the league to the teams to obey to a fantasy salary cap and that the teams knew there would be consequences,” said Jeffrey Kessler, NFLPA lead outside counsel. “We were, frankly, stunned when that spilled out on the record, but spill it did.”

The union is seeking approximately $3 billion in damages.

Kessler insisted filing the lawsuit so soon after Tuesday’s arbitration ruling was coincidental. Evidence to support the suit was gathered without the Redskins’ direct cooperation, he said.

It’s unclear whether Washington’s salary cap space could be restored if the suit is successful. The Redskins were penalized $18 million in cap space in 2012 and are scheduled to lose another $18 million next season.

A Redskins spokesman declined to comment.

The league in March penalized Washington for shifting expensive contracts to the uncapped 2010 season with intent to gain a competitive advantage. It docked the Dallas Cowboys $10 million for the same reason.

The NFL redistributed that $46 million among 28 other teams. New Orleans and Oakland were excluded because the league determined they engaged in similar contract-shifting practices to a lesser extent.

The NFLPA agreed March 11 to amend the existing CBA to include the Redskins’ and Cowboys’ cap penalties and the reallocation of cap space. It filed suit Wednesday claiming it has since acquired new evidence of collusion.

“Had the union known about prior collusion, the union never would have agreed to these cap reallocations,” Kessler said.

The NFLPA’s lawsuit claims the union was “forced” to agree to the league’s plan of penalizing Washington and Dallas and reallocating the cap space.

The agreement was a “take-it-or-leave-it ‘price’” for the NFL agreeing to the union’s request for certain concessions involving deferral of player benefit costs to future years when TV revenue is expected to be greater, the suit claims.

Union officials also have said the league threatened to reduce the 2012 per-club salary cap amount if the union did not agree to the reallocation plan.

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