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NFL Players’ Bid to Reopen Revenue Suit Rejected

Dec. 31 (Bloomberg) -- A federal judge rejected a bid by National Football League players to reopen a 2011 settlement of a lawsuit over revenue.

The National Football League Players Association claimed the league hid a $123 million-per-club salary cap for the 2010 season. The players sought $3 billion in damages, saying owners violated an earlier agreement requiring uncapped salaries that season.

U.S. District Judge David S. Doty in Minneapolis today rejected the claim, finding that the earlier agreement, reached in 2006, had expired and the players had waived such claims through their 2011 collective-bargaining agreement. The 2011 accord, settling a labor dispute, included a stipulation of dismissal of any claims, pending or not, Doty said.

Because the stipulation of dismissal was executed after the 2006 agreement expired, “the court is without jurisdiction to enforce” it, Doty said. “The NFLPA released the claims it attempts to assert in the underlying action.”

The players will consider “any and all other options in light of this decision,” George Atallah, an NFLPA spokesman, said in an e-mail today. “We respect the judge’s order, but it does not mean that the owners didn’t collude.”

The NFL team owners colluded on salaries for the 2010 season, and the players were unaware of this when the collective-bargaining agreement was reached in August 2011, Jeffrey Kessler, a lawyer for the players, said in a Sept. 6 hearing before Doty.

‘Desperate Time’

“It never occurred to us that there was collusion over a salary cap,” Kessler said at the September hearing. “We would have asserted that claim at that desperate time for the players, had we known about it.”

“There was no secret salary cap,” Gregg Levy, a lawyer for the league with Covington & Burling, said at that hearing. “The union agreed to give up that claim in exchange for a new agreement.”

The broader lawsuit was brought by the late Philadelphia Eagles Hall of Famer Reggie White. The suit initially resulted in a 1992 settlement and later in the 2011 settlement, which headed off a threatened lockout.

The case is White v. National Football League, 92-cv-00906, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota (Minneapolis).

To contact the reporters on this story: Margaret Cronin Fisk in Detroit at mcfisk@bloomberg.net; Beth Hawkins in Minneapolis at Hawkins@visi.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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