Appellate court gives NFLPA life in collusion suit

St. Louis, MO ( - The NFL Players Association can continue a lawsuit against the NFL, which claimed the league instituted a secret salary cap for the 2010 season.

An appellate court has reversed a decision by a district court that denied the union's claims.

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, stems from the 2010 season when teams were not bound by a salary cap with the conclusion of the collective bargaining agreement on the horizon. The CBA expired at the end of the 2010 campaign and a lockout ensued the following summer.

Once the lockout concluded with a new CBA in August 2011, all litigation was settled, including one of an alleged secret salary cap. However, there were public comments made by some owners, including the New York Giants' John Mara, who said in an interview that the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys had acted "in violation of the spirit of the salary cap" in an attempt "to take advantage of a one-year loophole."

The Redskins and Cowboys were slapped with salary-cap reductions in March 2012 for two seasons after front-loading contracts during the uncapped year.

Two months later, the NFLPA began its collusion lawsuit and a district court in Minnesota initially denied the union's claims.

The union had argued two counts. The first was that the district court had never approved the settlement and the dismissal of all litigation before the new CBA was signed was invalid. The second was that the league had procured the dismissal of the litigation by fraud, misrepresentation of misconduct.

In its ruling announced Friday, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's decision on the first argument and reversed the district court's denial on the second argument.

"Our union will always pursue and protect the rights of its players," the NFLPA said in a statement Friday. "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."

The appeals court does not necessarily agree with the NFLPA's arguments, stating only that the union should be given a chance to prove its case that the dismissal was fraudulently procured.

The NFL has maintained there was no such collusion.

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