According to multiple sources, free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL for collusion. In March, I wrote a legal analysis of this scenario occurring and explained how it would work for Kaepernick and the NFL. The March article details the relevant procedures at play and how they are governed by the collective bargaining agreement.
Here’s an update, and 16 key points to stress.
1. Collusion requires actual cooperation between teams (or cooperation between a team or teams and the league)
Here’s a scenario that has probably played out in recent months: Officials on one NFL team meet to discuss the team’s need for a quarterback. Kaepernick is one player they discuss. The officials then decide, without the involvement of any other team, to not sign Colin Kaepernick. Instead, the team signs a quarterback who, by objective metrics, isn’t as good as Kaepernick. These officials even admit to taking such an approach because they believe that Kaepernick would be a distraction. They also openly disagree with his political views and are offended by his kneeling during the national anthem.
Sounds suspicious, right? It’s not, at least not for purposes of collusion.
The scenario I just described is not collusion because it involves only one team. To be sure, those officials might regret not signing the “better” player. That’s not the point. It is lawful for one team to not want Kaepernick on grounds that team officials don’t like him. Along those lines, no NFL team is legally obligated to sign Kaepernick.
For Kaepernick to prove collusion, he would need to show that two or more teams, or the league office and at least one team, conspired in some way to deny him an opportunity to play in the NFL.
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