In this Sept. 6, 2007, file photo, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, right, and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees meet after the Colts won 41-10 Colts in an NFL football game in Indianapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Star quarterbacks Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees were among 10 players who filed an antitrust lawsuit against the NFL on Friday to prevent a lockout.
Just after the players' union decertified, the star trio and seven other players filed suit against the NFL in U.S. District Court, seeking class-action status. They also filed a request for an injunction that would keep the NFL and the teams from engaging in a lockout. Invoking the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust statute from 1890 that limits monopolies and restrictions on commerce, the players are seeking triple the amount of damages they've incurred.
Which means the stakes here could be in the hundreds of millions.
The players allege in the lawsuit that NFL teams conspired to deny the players' ability to market their services "through a patently unlawful group boycott and price-fixing arrangement or, in the alternative, a unilaterally imposed set of anticompetitive restrictions on player movement, free agency, and competitive market freedom."
The collective bargaining agreement with the league expires at the end of Friday.
Hundreds of miles from the mediated negotiations in Washington, the scene was set in a federal courthouse in Minneapolis for what could be a long legal fight between owners and players — putting the 2011 season in jeopardy.
Two women entered the clerk's office to drop off a batch of documents around 4 p.m. CST. The names on the complaint were striking: Brady, Brees, Manning and a few others, listed in a block of text at the top of the first page. They're plaintiffs, for now, not simply players strengthening their bodies and sharpening their minds in preparation for a new season.
The players allege that the NFL conspired to deny the players' ability to market their services in what is a $9 billion business. They cite as constraints what they called the league's history of antitrust violations, including a potential lockout, the draft and the franchise and transition player designations. Teams use those designations to keep key free agents off the open market, but the players also are well compensated when they sign new contracts.
Tom Condon, who represents Manning and Brees, wrote in a statement submitted to the court that a "'lockout' imposed by the NFL threatens to rob Mr. Brees and Mr. Manning, and all other NFL players, of an entire year, or more, of their brief playing careers, which cannot be recaptured."
"This is especially problematic because of the virtually constant need for NFL players to prove their skill and value on the playing field," wrote Condon, one of more than a half-dozen agents who offered statements supporting their clients. "Missing a year or more of playing in the NFL can cause the skills of NFL players to become rusty from lack of competition, making it difficult for them to regain the full talents they exhibited prior to the absence from play. This could shorten or even end the careers of NFL players."
The case was assigned Friday afternoon to U.S. District judge Patrick Schiltz, not his colleague David Doty, who has overseen NFL labor matters since the early 1990s and has several times ruled in favor of the players. The lawsuit still could end up in front of Doty. New cases are randomly assigned to judges when they're filed, but they are sometimes reassigned to others on the bench with expertise in a certain issue.
Doty, who helped engineer the initial agreement between owners and players that opened the doors to free agency, issued a ruling last week that backed the NFLPA in a dispute over $4 billion in TV revenue that players argue was illegally collected by the owners as a war chest to survive a work stoppage.
The league has tried in the past to remove Doty from the case, alleging bias toward the players.
Also involved in bringing the lawsuit: San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson, Minnesota linebacker Ben Leber and defensive end Brian Robison, New England guard Logan Mankins, New York Giants defensive end Osi Umenyiora, Kansas City linebacker Mike Vrabel, and Texas A&M linebacker Von Miller, who is entered in this year's draft.
"The torch has been passed to a young Aggie who has decided to put his name on a lawsuit," Smith said.
Manning, Jackson, Leber and Mankins are free agents. The Colts tagged Manning as a franchise player, while the Chargers did the same with Jackson and the Patriots with Mankins. The union is disputing the validity of those tags.
AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner in New York and Associated Press Writer Amy Forliti in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
Tuesday, May 23 2017 5:55 PM EDT2017-05-23 21:55:13 GMT
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