The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys have filed a case with an arbitrator challenging the salary cap reductions imposed on them by the NFL for the way the two teams structured players’ contracts in the sport’s season without a salary cap in 2010.
Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of communications, confirmed Sunday that the case was filed under a provision in the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. According to Aiello, the case is to be heard by Stephen Burbank, a University of Pennsylvania law professor who is the sport’s “system arbitrator.”
The case challenges the “salary cap adjustment agreed to by the union,” said Aiello, who declined further comment. Another person with knowledge of the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, also said the NFL Players Association is named, along with the league, in the arbitration case filed by the Redskins and Cowboys because the teams’ salary cap reductions resulted from an agreement between the league and the players’ union.
The Redskins declined to comment through a spokesman.
The news of the filing of the case came as owners of the NFL teams gathered Sunday in Palm Beach, Fla., for the annual league meeting. The meeting officially opens Monday morning.
The Redskins and Cowboys have denied wrongdoing in the case. They filed for arbitration under a provision in the sport’s collective bargaining agreement. The labor deal gives Burbank the exclusive jurisdiction to enforce the rules of certain articles of the collective bargaining agreement, including those governing the salary cap. He is empowered to award damages and provide injunctive relief.
A decision by Burbank can be appealed to an appeals panel.
It was not immediately clear when Burbank would hold a hearing or issue a ruling in the case.
The Redskins were given a $36 million salary cap reduction over two years by the NFL, at least half of which must be absorbed this season. The Cowboys were given a $10 million subtraction over two seasons.
According to people familiar with the case, neither team technically violated any salary cap rules but the league found that the Redskins and Cowboys structured contracts in the uncapped year to gain an unfair competitive advantage when the salary cap went back into effect. The people familiar with the case said the teams paid money to players that otherwise would have been paid in subsequent seasons, so that the money never counted against the salary cap and the clubs would have additional cap room in the future.
The 2010 season was played without a salary cap under a provision in the sport’s previous labor deal. The salary cap went back into effect last season in conjunction with the ratification of a new labor agreement by the league and the players’ union. The league redistributed the salary cap reductions given to the Redskins and Cowboys to 28 of the other 30 NFL teams, according to people with knowledge of the case, and that resulted in this season’s salary cap being set at $120.6 million per club.
The NFL Players Association believed that the Redskins and Cowboys did nothing wrong but reluctantly agreed to the league’s resolution, a person familiar with the union’s deliberations on the matter has said, to avoid this season’s salary cap being set lower, perhaps around $115 million per team.
Two people familiar with the case have said that the Redskins’ tactics angered some of the owners of other teams to the point that they urged NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to strip draft choices from the Redskins. But the league instead ordered the salary cap reductions last week.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said late last week that a challenge could be in the works.
“We are working within the rules and procedure of the NFL and I am not at liberty to say what we’re doing,” Jones said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “But we’re certainly not through with that. We… have expressed that we don’t agree with that.”