The Redskins and Cowboys take the shrewd approach to fight salary cap sanction

Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys

Sometimes you want Daniel Snyder to be Daniel Snyder. Like now.

Word arrived late last week that Mr. Snyder and Jerry Jones would fight the NFL’s sanction of the Redskins and the Cowboys for maxing out the rules under the 2010 “no cap” year.

The teams will fight the league through arbitration called for under the new CBA rather than the Court system. The judicial process would take longer, involve more hurdles and would be a disaster for the league if the ‘Skins and ‘Boys won. More on that below.

Arbitration is smarter and faster than lawsuits. Besides, who’s impressed by the Redskins legal team? They couldn’t talk Snyder out of heartless suits against grandmas in trouble who couldn’t play their season ticket bill, or out of making Snyder look petty by suing small city papers over a cartoon.

Yup, I’d have more faith in the Cowboys legal team if it came to lawsuits.

The leagues sanction seems to have outraged everyone but league owners. John Mara, co-owner of division rival New York Giants, said that the league’s penalty was fair and that the teams were lucky not to lose Draft picks as some owners reportedly wanted.

The idea of losing a Draft pick caused palpable fear among Redskins fans. The loss of any first round pick from 2012 through 2014 would have killed the trade that moved the Redskins into the second overall pick of the 2012 Draft, thus killing Washington’s shot at Robert Griffin III, or Andrew Luck.

To Redskins fans, losing $36 million of cap space and the chance to add WR Vincent Jackson to free agents Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan was the least bad outcome to losing a Draft pick.

Perhaps that’s the way Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and Mara see it. They are the villains in the story to Redskins and Cowboys fans. I’m not sure. Both Goodell and Smith were known to be Redskins fans before they took on their current roles as commissioner and union executive. They are obligated to perform their duties impartially, but surely know the anguish lost picks would cause Redskins fans this of all years.

Neither Mara nor the rest of the Beast are too concerned about the Redskins, with or without RG3.

I like collusion in sports

The basis for a lawsuit against the league would have been collusion, the one word description for conspiracy in restraint of trade — a violation of the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act.

Yet, collusion is what makes professional leagues work. Scheduling, orderly player acquisition, free agency rules, broadcast contracts give us the NFL we have today. All of those things are against the law, especially when it comes to the career movement and pay of employees, aka players. Fans follow teams, but they relate to players.

When player services were property of the teams, rivalries really meant something. Players identified with their teams and towns and took personal umbrage at the success of rivals. They knew the words to the team fight songs. 

Then the players’ union got smart and sued teams for collusion. They won because the league really did collude which was good for the teams and the towns, but deprived players of the right of career movement like ordinary workers have. What fan thinks of pro players as ordinary employees with rights?

Now, after hard won labor gains, pro players are more loyal to their profession, see players on other teams as colleagues and rival teams as potential future employers. They play hard between opening whistle to final gun, but I doubt that more than five players on any team know the words to their fight song.

That’s sad compared to the 1970s and ’80s when Cowboys and Redskins was the stuff of legend, when Sam Huff voiced his hate for Randy white and when there is tape somewhere in NFL Film’s vault of Billy Kilmer leading a chorus of Hail to the Redskins after a win over Dallas.

And I walked to school in my bare feet in the snow…uphill both ways. Those days are gone.

The law allows collusion when it is a labor matter reached by collective bargaining under federal labor law. It was important to the league to get the union’s agreement to the sanction as a violation of the CBA.

The labor agreement is a shield for the owners’ interpretation of the “spirit” of the gentleman’s agreement on the no cap year. The CBA shield is a difficult hurdle to overcome, as the union itself learned when they were fighting…and losing… the lockout war. The union went along with the sanction because their focus is on the salary opportunity for the entire league, not just two teams. The league cleverly spread the purloined salary cap among 28 other teams to remove payers union concern about lost salary opportunity for its members.

Antitrust lawsuits by the Redskins and Cowboys were a long, expensive and risky approach with an uncertain outcome that may have upended the collusive practices I like about the NFL. Winning would be as disastrous for Washington and Dallas as for the rest of the league.

The trick was to find the non-judicial way to strip the labor shield from the league without fracturing the collusive practices that’s good for pro football. 

I’ve called Mr. Snyder a football idiot, but never a dummy.

Point after

Ever since the Redskins moved up in the Draft to position for Robert Griffin III, I have referred to Mr. Snyder as “Mister Snyder.” The practice will continue unless Mr. Snyder does something Albert Haynesworth-stupid.  

Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.

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