WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 25: DeMaurice Smith (L) executive director of the National Football League Players' Association, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell shake hands before addressing the media on July 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. The NFL players and owners announced they have reached agreement and ended the lockout. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
On Wednesday, the National Football League Players Association filed a federal lawsuit that claimed the league instituted a secret salary cap for the 2010 season, which was suppose to be an uncapped year under the previous collective bargaining agreement. However, the NFLPA claims that owners enforced a salary cap of $123 million per team for the year, which cost players at least $1 billion.
The NFLPA filed it's collusion complaint in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis. The players association claimed that the complaint falls under the supervision of Judge David Doty, who made the final ruling in the Reggie White 1993 litigation case. This case revolved around White and approximately another 450 players who wanted to become free agents. At the time, under the NFL's Plan B system, which tied most good players to their teams, players were restricted from switching teams at the conclusion of the season. But after the settlement, there was peace between the league and the player's association for nearly two decades. Then the 2010 season arrived.
The written claim alleges that the league and owners conspired to set a designated salary cap, when owners didn't have the authority to set one.
"When the rules are broken in a way that hurts the game, we have an obligation to act, said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith. "We cannot stand by when we now know that the owners conspired to collude."
However, two months ago, it was learned that the Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, and New Orleans Saints were the only four teams in the league that didn't abide by the NFL's secret rule and failed to suppress players' salaries. The league penalized Dallas ($10 million) and Washington ($36 million) during the past two years and both teams filed grievances against the league. Recently, the grievance from both teams was dismissed by Special Master's Stephen Burbank, who cited the player's association agreement to an arrangement that would redistribute the money to other teams around the league for cap spending.
The union is seeking $1 billion in actual damages mainly for the 2010 free-agent class for the violation of the Stipulation and Settlement Agreement (SSA), which includes its anti-collusion and anti-circumvention provisions. However, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello expects the lawsuit to be dismissed.
"The filing of these claims is prohibited by the Collective Bargaining Agreement and separately by an agreement signed by the players' attorneys last August. The claims have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed," Aiello said.