Mar 13

Admission of Collusion in Professional Sports

NFL fans, have you been following the recently imposed salary cap fines on the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins? Apparently, because of actions taken during 2010 — the uncapped year in between CBA negotiations — the league will be docking the Cowboys $10 million of salary cap room, and the Redskins $36 million of salary cap room. All of this on the eve of the 2012 Free Agency period (today, March 13, at 4pm EDT), widely considered to be the absolute best free agency crop in a decade.

Let’s do a little history lesson. In 2010, the old Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFL Player’s Association (NFLPA) was lapsing. As a part of the arrangement between the two parties to bridge the two CBAs, the ensuing season was determined to progress without an official salary cap in place. Several teams, including the Cowboys and the Redskins, engaged in contract accounting adjustments in order to prorate dollar payments into the uncapped year. In NFL slang, this is called “dumping salaries” — paying off contract amounts now in order to save future money. In other words, the Cowboys and Redskins took advantage of the opportunity to dump salary.

Fast forward to 2012. The NFL now states that they warned teams not to “dump salaries” during the uncapped year, else there would be future ramifications. Dumping salaries is equivalent to paying money now rather than later, i.e. spending more now to save more later. So let’s re-state that: in a year where the CBA did not govern spending dynamics, a group of owners banded together to encourage other owners not to spend in a free market manner. Antitrust Flag #1. (source)

Next, word has broken that the collective group of owners pushed the aforementioned fine through the NFLPA negotiating process by promising a redistribution of the fine amongst the other teams. Worse still? If DeMaurice Smith and the NFLPA had not agreed to the aforementioned fine, the league would have forced a lower future salary cap. Let’s re-state that: a majority of owners banded together to strong-arm their employees into a non-market contract that benefited only a subset of the NFL’s and the NFLPA’s own constituents. Antitrust Flag #2. (source)

Oh by the way, in 2010, had there been a typical salary cap structure in place — which there was not – eight teams would have been below the spending floor, as typically instituted by said CBA. (source) Why is this not an issue, I wonder? Perhaps because the NFL wanted to suppress spending in the uncapped year in order to negotiate a more league-friendly salary cap going forward? Suppress. Spending. Antitrust Flag #3.

Lastly, per NFL procedures, the NFL itself approved the changes to the Cowboys and Redskins accounting changes. Now, it wants to retroactively punish the teams … for contracts that the league approved. Let’s re-state that: a majority of owners is attempting to band together in order to undo transactions it already approved. Antitrust Flag #4.

Think about it this way. The Cowboys and the Redskins are the two most valuable franchises in the NFL, according to Forbes. Jerry Jones, owner of the Cowboys, and Dan Snyder, owner of the Redskins, are among the wealthiest owners. The NFL has arbitrarily instituted a punishment for a collusive “rule” that doesn’t exist and has never existed in order to re-distribute salary cap space to the other NFL teams. It’s no wonder the other owners are colluding to push this punishment through!

I’m not even going to go into the fact that the Packers, Bears, Saints, and Titans all engaged in this activity as well, and aren’t being punished (source). Or, that the fine amounts appear to be arbitrary, as the Cowboys are being docked a net number for Miles Austin, but the Redskins are being docked a gross number for Albert Haynesworth and DeAngelo Hall. Or, that the head of the NFL Management Council is also the co-owner of the New York Giants, who happen to be in the same division as the Cowboys and the Redskins.

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