The Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys lost their arbitration case to recover lost salary cap. End of story, right?
Maybe not. The NFL Players Association is shocked, SHOCKED, to learn that the owners colluded in establishing a "soft" $123 million salary cap in the 2010 no cap year. The union is suing the NFL for $4 billion over the matter one day after the Special Master dismissed the Cowboys and Redskins arbitration appeal of the NFL's salary cap sanction.
The teams lost the case when the arbitrator, University of Pennsylvania law school professor Stephen Burbank, decided he did not have authority to act. The league and owners amended the CBA last March when two men, Commissioner Roger Goodell and PA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, reallocated cap dollars from Dallas and Washington and spread it among 28 of the clubs. The owners, but not the players, ratified that agreement as an amendment to the CBA itself.
In effect, the loss of the two teams' 2012 cap room was written into the labor agreement as if from day one of the deal. Prof. Burbank felt his hands were tied, so he dismissed the case.
The union hopes to defeat problems faced by the Cowboys and Redskins by charging conspiracy as a violation of the 1993 Reggie White Settlement Agreement (SSA). The teams based their arbitration case on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
The union is pressing their case in federal court rather than arbitration. They brought their case after collecting public statement by owners in the lead up to Dallas' and Washington's arbitration hearing.
Maybe that will make a difference. But, like Lucy, the union and DeMaurice Smith have some 'splaining to do.
Why was the salary cap going to be lower in 2012 than in 2011? The union agreed to the sanctions in return for the owners' agreement to raise the cap slightly to $120.6 million in return for their agreement to sanction the clubs. The union reportedly did not believe that the Redskins and Cowboys violated the CBA.
Even without owners statements now, how could the union fail to estimate the loss of $1 billion in players' potential income when it occurred in 2010?
The late Gene Upshaw said many times that, if the owners locked the players out, the union would never again agree to a salary cap. Why is a salary cap part of the new CBA?
I gave DeMaurice Smith high marks for making the best possible deal for players when legal setbacks were looming. I still believe that, but Smith is new and came to the job without experience as a labor leader. Upshaw bargained for players since the late 1970s and knew the ins and outs of labor negotiations. Smith is still on a steep learning curve.
Commissioner Roger Goodell is a lawyer of the first order. He is undefeated in matters like this. My money is on him.