Secret Salary Cap Hints Won’t Revive NFL Spat

     MINNEAPOLIS (CN) – A union for professional football players failed to show that the league coerced the end of the 2011 lockout by lying about a secret salary cap, a federal judge ruled.
     The dispute stems from the National Football League’s transition in 2010 out of settlement that had governed player salaries for the past two decades.
     Since the SSA, short for stipulation and settlement agreement, did not include a salary cap for the deal’s final year, the 2010 season, many players expected a marked increase in their salaries.
     Those raises never came, however, and players soon began accusing NFL team owners of colluding to avoid bidding wars over free agents.
     The NFL and its players union agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement in July 2011, ending an 18-week lockout.
     Tensions came to a boil again after the lockout ended, however, when several league officials including NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made public statements about an unofficial 2010 salary cap.
     The NFL Players Association interpreting that statement as a violation of the SSA and moved to revive one of the cases that put the deal in place.
     Though a federal judge refused to revive the 1993 case filed by now deceased Hall of Famer Reggie White, the Eighth Circuit reversed last year.
     Looking at the case on remand, U.S. District Judge Michael Davis again refused to breathe new life into White’s case.
     Finding that the union made a calculated risk in releasing all claims against the NFL, Davis said “the record demonstrates that the NFLPA was aware of the possibility of a collusion claim based on a secret salary cap in the 2010 League Year; it was aware that, if it agreed to release unknown claims, undiscovered violations of the SSA would be barred; and it was aware that discovery was not yet closed and that it had not received documents that it perceived to be important from the League Office.”
     “It had more than sufficient information to understand the import of releasing unknown claims,” the 28-page opinion continues.
     Ultimately, the players” union failed to prove its case, the court found.
     “Even if the Court did not decide that the NFLPA had waived its discovery argument, there is no evidence that the NFL engaged in discovery misconduct,” Davis wrote. “Its production of documents was not due until eleven days after the settlement was reached, so even if, at the time of the settlement, it had failed to produce responsive, relevant documents regarding a secret salary cap, there is no way to know whether it would have met its discovery obligations in the next eleven days if a settlement had not been reached.”

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