The NFL Players Association and the Reggie White class counsel filed a collusion complaint against the NFL in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota, alleging the league imposed a secret $123 million salary cap during the uncapped year of 2010.
The NFLPA's complaint points to the league's punishment of the Washington Redskins, Dallas Cowboys, New Orleans Saints and Oakland Raiders as proof that restraints were in place to suppress salaries during that year. The filing also alleges that internal NFL calculations showed that Washington was $102,833,047 in excess of the secret cap, Dallas was $52,938,774 over, Oakland was $41,914,060 over and New Orleans was $36,329,770 over.
On Tuesday, system arbitrator Stephen Burbank upheld a league decision to take $36 million of cap space from the Redskins and $10 million of cap space from the Cowboys as a result of contracts that the league has said violated the spirit of competitive balance. The league, by owner vote, agreed to take that cap space and spread it among 28 other teams, excluding the Raiders and Saints from the beneficiaries for their 2010 actions.
"When the rules are broken in a way that hurts the game, we have an obligation to act," said NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith in a statement. "We cannot standby when we now know that the owners conspired to collude."
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello responded to the players' claims with a comment: "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. On multiple occasions, the players and their representatives specifically dismissed all claims, known or unknown, whether pending or not, regarding alleged violations of the 2006 CBA and the related settlement agreement. We continue to look forward to focusing on the future of the game rather than grievances of a prior era that have already been resolved."
The league also provided a copy of the dismissal of the White case, part of the league and union's "global settlement" at the end of the lockout last summer.
The NFLPA pointed to comments made by Giants owner John Mara, a member of the chair of the league's executive committee, in response to questions posed on the Washington/Dallas matter as proof of the existence of a cap in 2010.
"What they did was in violation of the spirit of the salary cap," Mara said. "They attempted to take advantage of a one-year loophole ... full well knowing there would be consequences."
The NFLPA will be represented by outside counsel Jeffrey Kessler in this case.