Colin Kaepernick's collusion grievance against NFL moving forward

Colin Kaepernick's collusion grievance against the NFL is already starting to move forward, sources said, with the sides beginning to exchange communications about how the initial stages of the process should unfold.

During this discovery stage, with requests for evidence made, Kaepnerick's legal team plans to ask the System Arbitrator hearing the case to compel all owners and high-ranking officials to turn over cell and email correspondence, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, though ultimately the process generally results in a smaller sample granted. Currently, there is a "litigation hold" in place regarding the electronic communication of NFL teams, according to the source, with team officials prohibited from expunging any relevant data.

While getting access to every owner's phone records seems unlikely to legal experts, Kaepernick's case would have a particular need to inquire about certain teams that had direct communication with the quarterback, and teams that have suffered injuries at the quarterback position and worked out other players, and those teams whose owners have been in direct contact with President Trump. As previously reported, Trump's influence and directives regarding Kaepernick and protesting players will be a part of Kaepernick's collusion argument, with the NFL's collusion rules in the collective bargaining agreement stipulating that "implied" collusion can take place between an agent outside of the league and member clubs and/or the NFL league office.

The formal discovery requests will include not just owners, but also top executives for the clubs involved. The Seahawks and Ravens (whose football staff had direct talks with Kaepernick), as well as the Titans and Packers (who lost starting quarterbacks to injury) and the Patriots and Cowboys (whose owners have been seen speaking to Trump in person or who have talked publicly about conversations with Trump regarding player protests) all would be of particular import to the case.

This is an unprecedented situation, with an individual NFL player bringing this sort of case against the league, but many of the mechanics of the process, under the CBA, are similar to what we have seen in the past with players like Tom Brady or coaches like Sean Payton requested to turn over various forms of electronic communication in the "Deflategate" or "Bountygate" cases. The sides will have to agree on a third-party that specializes in securely retrieving electronic communications to handle the process of harvesting the data – that alone could take some time – and while there is no set timetable for how long such a discovery process will take, some legal experts suggested three-to-four weeks might apply. Kaepernick's team will ask the process to move in a timely manner.

The NFL has reacted negatively to players, coaches and others who it believes have not been totally forthcoming in releasing such data and turning over phones in past discipline cases. Kaepernick's legal team would likely request the ability to search the phones of some top league office staff as well for key terms ("Kaepernick,"  "blackballed," "workout," etc.) as part of their search for evidence that would have to convince System Arbitrator Stephen Burbank that at least two teams, or a team and the league office, conspired to deny Kaepernick an opportunity to work-out for or gain employment from an NFL club.   

CBS Sports Insider

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday... Full Bio

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