Preliminary arguments began Thursday in Minneapolis in a lawsuit against the league that harks back to the worst sports scandals of the last generation: unrestrained collusion among the owners to keep payrolls down.
The facts in the White case are straightforward and damning, and largely agreed upon by both sides. In 2010, the last year of an expiring labor deal, there was no salary cap. Teams were ostensibly free to carry whatever payroll they could afford, but in their summer meetings the owners came to a secret agreement. No one would cross the $123 million boundary, because if some teams spent freely, that would drive up prices for teams that would rather not spend at all.
The imaginary salary cap “came up several times in our meetings,” said John Mara, Giants owner and chairman of the NFL’s management committee. Still, four teams took the gentlemen’s agreement as something less than binding, because after all: There was no actual rule. The Redskins, Cowboys, Raiders, and Saints all spent more than $123 million, despite being warned “at least six times” that serious consequences would follow. And sure enough, the gavel came down. This season and next, Washington and Dallas (the two biggest spenders) will forfeit a combined $46 million in salary cap space, to be distributed among the other teams.
In other words: Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones are being punished for failing to collude with their fellow owners in a secret deal to keep hundreds of millions of dollars out of the hands of NFL players. … Read More