NFL Asks Court to Dismiss NFLPA’s 2010 Salary Cap Collusion Claim

The NFL is seeking the court to nix the NFLPA’s claim that teams colluded to cap salaries in 2010 during which salaries were unrestricted because the league opted out of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the players.

In a filing submitted on Wednesday, the NFL argued that the NFLPA is not entitled to any relief because the players voluntarily decided to release the collusion claim in a February 2013 CBA.  Additionally, there was a separate release in the 2011 CBA barring the NFLPA’s current claim.  Further, the stipulation of dismissal in August 2011 signed by both parties “was a reasoned, deliberate, informed choice by the NFLPA to end the lockout and related litigation,” according to the Wednesday’s filing.

“Because the NFLPA’s claim is barred at the threshold on multiple grounds, the court should end this litigation once and for all.”

After the stipulation of dismissal was signed in 2011, some NFL team owners publicly criticized teams that acted “in violation of the spirit of the salary cap.”  Taking such statements as admissions of collusion, the NFLPA in May 2012 filed a petition to reopen and enforce the 1993 settlement, claiming the 2011 stipulation of dismissal was invalid because the court never approved it.  In the 1993 settlement, team owners agreed among themselves to cap salaries to $123 million per club in 2010.

Alternatively, the NFLPA argued the court should set aside a “‘final judgment, order, or proceeding’ that was obtained by ‘fraud . . . , misrepresentation, or misconduct’” pursuant to a certain procedural rule.  However, a Minnesota district court judge in December denied the petition because of the release clause in the 2011 CBA.  Further, it held the procedural rule at issue addressing fraud or misrepresentation was unavailable to a party that stipulated to the dismissal of a lawsuit.

The appeals court then affirmed the district court’s decision in June this year that the stipulation did not require the court’s approval.  However, it reversed the district court’s decision on the application of the procedural rule and remanded for further proceedings, giving the NFLPA chance to meet

“a heavy burden . . . to convince the district court that the stipulation was fraudulently procured.”

The NFLPA took the appeals court’s decision as an opportunity to reopen the case, and in response, the NFL submitted the Wednesday’s filing, asking the district court to dismiss the lawsuit.

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