The NFL Players Assn. is accusing league owners of secretly -- and illegally -- agreeing to put a salary cap in place in the uncapped 2010 season.
The union filed a complaint in federal court Wednesday, alleging the owners colluded to impose a $123-million salary cap on teams, when they did not have the authority to do so. The league has since penalized Washington and Dallas for overspending in 2010, reducing the future salary caps of the Redskins and Cowboys by a combined $46 million over the next two seasons.
The NFLPA's claim was filed in U.S. District Court in Minnesota, which under the previous collective-bargaining agreement -- when the activity was alleged to have taken place -- oversaw the Reggie White settlement in regard to labor issues.
Under the terms of the collective-bargaining agreement, owners are not allowed to make such a decision unilaterally. Any such decision would require the consent of the players.
"It's egregious misconduct by the league, if it's true," said labor expert William B. Gould IV, a Stanford law professor. "That's why the provision's in the collective-bargaining agreement."
In a written statement, the NFL said the collusion claims "have absolutely no merit and we fully expect them to be dismissed."
What's more, the league said the players agreed not to go back and unearth issues related to the previous collective-bargaining agreement.
The league said: "On multiple occasions, the players and their representatives specifically dismissed all claims, known or unknown, whether pending or not, regarding alleged violations of the 2006 CBA and the related settlement agreement."
NFL owners, union at odds over pads
New stadium for Minnesota Vikings is approved
Saints' Jonathan Vilma sues Roger Goodell over bounty allegations
NFLPA accuses NFL of collusion, files suit