In a surprise ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned Judge David Doty’s decision to dismiss the NFLPA’s collusion claim against the NFL, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk.
The claim stems from the negotiations of the most recent collective bargaining agreement, which was preceded by an uncapped year in 2010. During that year without a salary cap, the NFLPA believes the NFL colluded using unwritten rules about spending, creating an illegal and unspoken salary cap, and therefore suppressing the players’ earning potential.
Their argument is strengthened by cap penalties given out to both the Cowboys and Redskins in 2012, as punishment for loading up on salary during the uncapped year. The NFLPA will argue that they spent fairly according to the collective bargaining agreement’s rules for that year, and were punished for going above a threshold of salary set in meetings behind closed doors.
Judge Doty, known as a player friendly judge, dismissed the case due to the NFLPA signing to a new agreement with the NFL. However, the business-friendly appeals court reversed the decision, saying the NFLPA has the right to prove that the settlement was compromised by “fraud . . ., misrepresentation, or misconduct.”
“[T]he [NFLPA] bears a heavy burden in attempting to convince the district court that the Dismissal was fraudulently procured,” the appeals court clarified. “We hold only that the [NFLPA] should be given the opportunity to meet this burden.”
The appeals court went on to note that the burden of proof is met “in only the most exceptional of cases.”
Even still, the NFLPA is happy to have the opportunity to see the case back in a courtroom. ”Our union will always pursue and protect the rights of its players,” according to the NFLPA’s statement. “We are pleased that the Eighth Circuit ruled that players have the opportunity to proceed with their claims. Through discovery and a hearing, we can understand how collusion took place. We have notified the NFL of its obligations to preserve all relevant documents and communications.”