To sue or not to sue?

To sue or not to sue?
May 22, 2012, 5:53 pm
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With the news that arbitrator Stephen Burbank has dismissed the Redskins and Cowboys appeal of their salary cap penalties, Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones lost the best option to get the matter settled. The arbitration system works relatively quickly, it is within the framework of the NFL and the process is done behind closed doors with a minimum of potentially embarrassing information being make public. The penalty for violating a rule that was not written down anywhere--in fact, the written rule expressly permitted with Washington and Dallas did--could have been solved with a minimum of fanfare.An appeal of Burbanks dismissal may be possible. There is an appeals panel but it is not clear if a dismissal can be appealed or of there can only be an appeal if an actual decision is reached. If possible, the Redskins and Cowboys will explore going down that road but it seems likely that it will be a dead end.If that is the case, Jones and Snyder likely will have only one option left. They would have to go nuclear and file a lawsuit.Going to federal court, which presumably is where this interstate matter would have to be adjudicated, is everything that the internal arbitration isnt. Most of the process is there for the public to see, potentially embarrassing headlines will be generated on a daily basis, and the process cold drag on for months if not years. And the process is extremely expensive as thousands of billable hours are gobbled up navigating the court system.From the Redskins and Cowboys point of view, however, going to court could be the best option. The league has not fared well in front of men and women wearing robes in recent years. In 2010, the U. S. Supreme Court ruled against the NFL in the American Needle case in a 9-0 vote (when was the last time you saw that court agree like that on anything?). That the leagues effort to gain a broad antitrust exemption. Last year, the NFL lost two cases related to the labor dispute and subsequent lockout. First it was ruled that the owners had acted illegally in negotiating TV contracts that would still pay them rights fees in the event of a lockout. And then the lockout itself was declared to be illegal. Only a temporary injunction allowed the lockout to go on.The record shows that the highly-paid legal beagles retained by the league are not always the smartest guys in the room. The fact that they opined that the cap penalties would stand up in court doesnt mean that it will.But even if Jones and Snyder prevail in court if may be a pyrrhic victory. They could permanently damage relationships with other owners. In the business sense the Redskins and Cowboys organizations are more partners with those 30 other teams than they are competitors. They need each others support and votes to get things done. A long, public court battle may do them more harm in the long run than the good that would be gained from recouping the cap space.When asked after Burbanks ruling, the Redskins had no comment about their plans to pursue the case in court. We should find out what the next steps will be soon enough.