The Unwritten Rules

This question has been asked of me: “what is the definition of collusion in fantasy sports?”

Let’s start with what the dictionary says is the definition:




noun: collusion

  1. secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.

Personally, I think what the dictionary says is pretty spot on. I am all for using rules to one’s advantage, but anytime people go outside of the rules or spirit of the rules to gain an advantage for one of the persons involved, that would be collusion.

That being said, collusion is often hard to prove. The best thing you can do to prevent it is play with people you believe to be ethical and to have concrete rules governing all aspects of your league. Having a constitution for your league is essential for the long term survival of it.

Throughout the season I will answer questions based on fantasy ethics and rules in this reoccurring piece. You may not always like the answers I give, but I hope that it is informative and makes you think about how you construct your leagues and play the games. Typically I do 4-5 questions per piece, but this one is a tad bit longer due to the overwhelming number of questions I received. You can send me more questions via email,, my twitter account, or by posting in my facebook group.


Question:  This came up two years back in an NFBC draft. It was the year Patrick Corbin went down with TJ in March. Someone drafted him in a round that made it obvious he hadn’t heard about the TJ. So in that case, the pick will obviously stand, but should you let the guy know during the draft that Corbin is out for the year and thus his team has a pitching issue he still needs to address?


Answer:  In home leagues I have done this, especially in leagues without much money on the line. In a league like NFBC, I expect that the other owners have done their due diligence and continue to do so throughout the draft. Is it ok to say something? Sure. Is it unethical to not. I don’t believe it is.

Q:  How do you deal with the owners that just will not engage when it comes to trading? I’m talking about the ones that ignore trade offers if they don’t like them or reject offers without any feedback, not so much a ‘thanks for the offer but that doesn’t work for me’; the ones that don’t answer private messages or emails enquiring about trades and the ones who seem unable to say ‘hey’ when making an offer for your best player.

I’m not looking for in depth trade discussions but surely it’s not difficult to say a few words. Am I expecting too much here?

-Marc R

A:  Nothing leads to more frustration in fantasy than trading. As an active trader I try and keep in constant communication with the other owners in my leagues, but that is not always the case with others. Are you expecting too much? Absolutely not, but at the same time expecting others to live up to you expectations will keep you frustrated for a while. Some people have different schedules, modes of preferred communication, passion for trading, and/or length of attention span. Sometimes, especially in leagues that continue on from year-to-year, you’ll need to figure out the best ways to work with certain individuals that make things easier on them. In my old home league, I set up a spreadsheet that listed the preferred ways of contact for each member of the league. Some preferred phone calls and others email. However, some people don’t want to communicate. In those cases, you have to make due with what you have or find new members or leagues to play in.

Q:  A trade is proposed. While you are mulling it over, a player you are trading gets hurt. Can you accept?


A:  I would say no. Trading is a relationship and if you abuse that relationship it will eventually come back to bite you. The intent of the trade was obviously to get the player in his current condition. Here is an analogy: You are at the store to buy a carton of eggs. While on the conveyor belt another item falls onto the carton breaking some of the eggs. Should the cashier still make you pay for the item even though it was not your fault and you haven’t yet purchased it? Would you ever go back to that store if they did? Of course you wouldn’t. There is a difference between winning a trade and screwing your competition.

Q:  An owner felt cheated out because the 4th place team caught up by making multiple trades in his favor. The owner quit and demanded a refund claiming the league did not know how to value players. The trades were fair and in accordance with the rules of the league. What should I do?


A:  If the trades were fair then tell that owner he is being ridiculous. Some people don’t like to lose and can’t fathom it would happen without malfeasance. If the trades were deemed legitimate then he gets no refund. Refunds really should only be issued if someone quits prior to a draft starting, never after.

Q:  Is it ok to make moves after you have been eliminated from contention?

– @MikeyA54

A: I am going to assume that this is focused on a redraft format because obviously in dynasty and keeper leagues it behooves owners to continue to make moves even after falling out of an individual year. In a redraft league I believe that is it is not only ok to continue to make waiver pickups and lineup moves but it is your obligation to do so for the integrity of the league. Whether you are in a Roto format or H2H, the performance of your team could affect the standings. It is your responsibility as an owner to play it out. Now, trading is a different subject. I think it is bad form for a team out of contention to trade with a team that is in contention in a redraft league. That to me borders on collusion as the team out of contention is really gaining nothing of importance.

Q:  In a keeper league can an owner that is out of the playoffs send a player to a contending team with an agreement of getting that player sent back in offseason? The team owner charges some form of value for the rental.

-Julio R.

A:  Absolutely not! Could you imagine the Angels trading Mike Trout for a month or two with the stipulation he is sent back with something for the previous trade? This would be blatant collusion and an obvious breaking of rules in my opinion.

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Justin is the co-host on The Sleeper and The Bust Podcast and writes for Rotographs covering the Roto Riteup as well as random topics that float into his juvenile brain. In addition to his work at Rotographs, Justin is the lead fantasy writer/analyst and co-owner for, owner of The Great Fantasy Baseball Invitational, and a fantasy football and baseball writer for Fantasy Alarm. He is also a certified addiction treatment counselor. Follow Justin on Twitter @JustinMasonFWFB.

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That last one basically seems like the IRL trade with Chapman and Gleybar Torres.

Brad Johnson

Most leagues with a constitution specifically disallow player rentals. However, if there is not a rule banning rentals then ipso facto, they are legal.

For the question about a player getting hurt mid-trade, agreements should be reconfirmed anytime there is a major change in player value. If a guy fouls a ball of his foot and will probably play tomorrow, you don’t necessarily have to make a fuss. However, most times, you should at least say “hey, this happened, we still good?” It’s simple good faith.

Once again, I recommend inserting a rule into your constitution detailing scenarios in which an owner can rescind a trade (in a timely fashion, i.e. 24 hours). You may consider adding a second rule to prevent the first rule from being abused. In my home league, owners may rescind any trade for up to 24 hours. However, the owner who rescinds the deal can’t trade any of the players involved for 10 days.


The only thing I’d say about the rentals is that this behavior actually happens in the EPL – teams will loan their players to other leagues or lower divisions. I’m not sure it has a place in fantasy, but it is an actual thing that happens in one of the biggest sports leagues in the world. (Note: I’m not a soccer [football] fan, but worth mentioning IMO.)

Curacao LL
Curacao LL

Re jbona3’s soccer example:
Soccer is a very different world. Aside from player loans (which teams do because their adult-aged minors system is not nearly as well developed) two other huge differences:

1) Every player in Europe is a UFA at the end of every contract. They can even sign a ‘pre-contract’ with a new club if there’s less than six months to go on their existing deal.

2) Very few transactions are trades. It happens occasionally but most of the time when a player’s rights are transferred from one club to another, it’s for cash. The best players move for $50-$100 million cash, not for other prospects. (The player usually re-ups with his new team as part of the terms. No one’s paying $50 million for a couple years of player control.)