SBD/Issue 209/Leagues & Governing Bodies

NFLPA Serves Subpoenas To League, Goodell As Part Of Ongoing Suit

Goodell Served Subpoena At
NFL's N.Y. Offices

The NFLPA has served subpoenas on the NFL, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and former NFLPA President and current NFL VP/Player Development Troy Vincent, ordering them to produce all documents relating to allegations Vincent and other former player leaders were colluding to undermine the union's collective bargaining position. The subpoenas were served on Goodell and the NFL offices in N.Y. under order of the Supreme Court in New York and the subpoena on Vincent was served under order of the Loudon County (Va.) Circuit Court. Vincent, who was hired by the NFL earlier this year after he lost the election last year for NFLPA Exec Dir to DeMaurice Smith, has a home in Virginia. The subpoenas, which order the production of any and all documents relating to meetings, discussions and communications between Vincent and other former player leaders and league officials, are part of an ongoing civil lawsuit filed by former NFLPA Head of Human Resources Mary Moran against the NFLPA. The NFL, Goodell, and Vincent are not named parties in that lawsuit. NFL Senior VP/PR Greg Aiello declined comment on behalf of the league. Vincent said in a voicemail message that neither he nor his counsel would have any comment.

INITIAL SUIT FILED LAST SUMMER: Moran sued the NFLPA last August, alleging that she was constructively fired from her job because she is a woman and because she is a confidential witness in an on-going investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor into whether alleged collusion between Vincent and other former player leaders of the NFLPA violated federal labor law. Moran has alleged that the NFLPA and Smith sought to quash that investigation. The NFLPA has denied that and has said that it is cooperating with the investigation. Federal authorities have recently served at least one subpoena on the NFLPA offices in DC and union employees have been notified that they may be interviewed by federal authorities. The NFLPA in its subpoenas on the NFL, Goodell and Vincent asked for a wide array of documents, going back to '04. Included in the union's request are all documents that refer or relate to the statement in Moran's complaint, filed last August, that "Mr. Vincent and the owners were colluding in violation of federal law that prohibits collusion between union representatives and management." The NFLPA also asked for all documents that refer to communications between the league and Vincent, former NFLPA Exec Committee member Mark Bruener, former NFLPA player rep and current alternate Kris Brown, and marketing agent and former NFL exec Mike Ornstein, going back to '04.

IMPACT ON LABOR TALKS UNKNOWN: It is not clear what impact the NFLPA's subpoena on the NFL will have on labor negotiations or on the player leadership within the union itself. Bruener, who retired from the NFL in '08 and was not eligible for election to the executive committee in March, participated in at least one formal bargaining session for a new CBA with the league in the last year. Brown, the Texans K, is currently listed as an alternate rep for the Texans on the NFLPA's website.

ADDITIONAL DOCUMENTS REQUESTED: The NFLPA also asked for all documents that relate to anything of value, including fees and payments, "that was given to, directed to, promised to or paid to any NFLPA Player Representative or NFLPA Executive Committee member." Additionally the union is seeking all documents that relate "to any plan by the NFL and/or any team owner to exert influence over, gain an advantage over, or obtain power within, the NFLPA, including ... communications with any media-related entity or individual." Additionally, the union asked for all documents generated since April, 1, 2008 that relate to the decision by the NFL to hire Vincent. Moran also issued through the courts subpoenas on the NFL, Goodell and Vincent. Moran is seeking the documents to prepare for depositions of Goodell, Vincent and others, according to her attorney, Lynne Bernabei. “Right now, we are trying to get the documents in preparation for the depositions,” Bernabei said. “We know there were communications and we believe there were communications about trying to get Troy Vincent in as executive director (of the NFLPA)," she said.

COMMUNICATIONS DESIRED: In addition to the information the NFLPA is seeking, Moran has asked the league for any documents related to communications between the NFL about the election of the NFLPA Exec Dir in '09, including any communications with Reilly Partners, the union's search firm, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue and current U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. (Smith formerly worked for Holder before beating out Vincent, former NFL player and current agent Trace Armstrong and attorney David Cornwell in the March '09 election for NFLPA Exec Dir.) Additionally, Moran is seeking any communications between the league and Mark Mangum, Vincent's partner in the financial advisory firm, Eltekon. (It is not clear if Vincent still has an ownership in that firm, which has counted NFL players as clients, since he took his new job with the NFL earlier this year.) Bernabei said that her firm has had discussions with the NFL about producing the documents, and the league's lawyers have been asking to narrow the scope of the documents, but they have not taken the position that they are not required to produce them.

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