The Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys are among the defendants in the collusion lawsuit filed Wednesday by the NFL Players Association, even after the teams spent so much money on players during the sport’s season without a salary cap in 2010 that they incurred cap reductions by the league.
Union officials confirmed Thursday that all 32 NFL teams, including the Redskins and Cowboys, are defendants in the lawsuit filed in federal court in Minnesota. The complaint alleges that teams had a secret salary cap of $123 million per club during the uncapped year and improperly conspired to restrict players’ salaries.
“We look at what the facts are as we know it,” DeMaurice Smith, the union’s executive director, said at a news conference Thursday afternoon outside the NFLPA’s offices in downtown Washington. “The 32 teams are defendants in the action right now. If there’s evidence that is developed later on that would demonstrate that any one of those teams did not abide by the conspiracy, then my guess is those teams will make the appropriate assertions and we’ll see where we end up.”
Asked if he thinks the evidence indicates the Redskins and Cowboys did not participate in the alleged collusion, Smith said: “My view is the facts that we had justified and supported the complaint that we filed.”
The Redskins declined to comment through a spokesman. They now find themselves facing the possibility of having to pay a portion of any damages awarded to the players in the case. In its complaint, the union estimates that players suffered $1 billion or more in damages, which could be multiplied in court.
On Tuesday, an arbitrator dismissed the Redskins’ and Cowboys’ challenge of the salary cap cuts imposed on them by the league in March, with the union’s assent. The Redskins had their salary cap reduced by $36 million over two years and the Cowboys had their cap cut by $10 million over two years. Stephen Burbank, the sport’s system arbitrator, ruled that the Redskins and Cowboys did not have the right to bring the case because the league and union agreed to the reductions and the cuts were ratified in a vote of all 32 teams, amounting to a proper amending of the collective bargaining agreement.
The league found the Redskins and Cowboys attempted to gain an unfair competitive advantage by the way in which they structured players’ contracts during the uncapped year, paying money to players that season that otherwise would have been paid in later seasons with the salary cap presumably back in effect. The union said in its lawsuit that the league calculated the Redskins paid $225.8 million to players in 2010, or nearly $103 million above the secret salary cap alleged by the union, and the Cowboys spent $175.9 million. The teams have denied wrongdoing.
Smith said Thursday the league acted improperly and the union is confident it will prevail in the lawsuit.
“Simply stated, cartels do what cartels will do when left unchecked. . . . We have a collective bargaining agreement, as we have had before, that obligates both parties to adhere to the rules,” Smith said. “When we feel those rules are violated we will, on behalf of our players, always act in their best interest. . . . We wouldn’t have filed it if we didn’t think that the facts were true.”
The league has denied the allegations in the lawsuit, saying that no collusion occurred, and maintains that the union is prohibited from filing such a claim by a provision in the current CBA and an agreement filed in court last year.
Asked Thursday about the league’s contentions that the union does not have the right to file such a lawsuit, Smith said: “I guess the first thing I would ask is: It doesn’t sound like you’re denying the existence of collusion, does it?”