NFL Players Accusing Owners Of Collusion

DeMaurice SmithDeMaurice Smith, Exec. Director, NFLPA

Photo: AP

The Washington Post reported this weekend that the NFL players union is quietly preparing a lawsuit that would accuse league owners of colluding to restrict free agent signings during the last offseason. This could be the first salvo of what promises to be an ugly labour battle this winter.The union believes that teams conspired to avoid signing free agents to long-term contracts and circumvented rules regarding rookie draft picks. (Among other shenanigans.)  Many team payrolls remained surprisingly low this year, especially considering that the league salary cap was lifted for 2010.

Collusion charges are nearly impossible to prove, since “unspoken” agreements obviously leave no paper trail. Owners would argue that they were simply conserving their cash in preparation for the inevitable 2011 lockout. But simply making the accusations in court would be a valuable bargaining ploy when the union and league head back to the table to discuss the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. Making the other side look greedier than yours is half the battle in the war for public relations.

The NFLPA would not comment, but the Post‘s Mark Maske claims the lawsuit could be filed next month.

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