SBD/February 28, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

DeMaurice Smith Tells NFL Player Agents To Prepare For Lockout

Smith explained rules regarding contact between NFL, players at meeting
NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith Friday did not reveal any details on the ongoing NFL CBA talks, but told NFL player agents at a large union meeting in Indianapolis to prepare for an NFL lockout, sources said. "His position is that we want a deal and the NFL isn't moving and only says, 'No!'" said one source at the meeting. Other sources said Smith told agents he would "punt" on any questions about the ongoing federal mediation in the CBA talks with the NFL that will continue tomorrow in DC. The CBA expires on Friday. Sources also said Smith told agents what rules will apply to contact between the NFL and players when the work stoppage begins. These sources asked for anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on union business. Some agents at the meeting in downtown Indianapolis, where the NFL Combine is being held, did talk to the national sports media gathered in the hallways. Powerful agents Tom Condon, Ben Dogra, Drew Rosenhaus and Joel Segal told the assembled press they are solidly behind Smith and the NFLPA. "De Smith is in command -- the NFLPA leadership has a great plan if there is a lockout and they are prepared for it," Rosenhaus said. "I feel good about the NFLPA's strategy. Listening to De and the NFLPA instills confidence that we are ready for whatever the future holds and we will be successful in the end." The NFLPA had planned to hold a smaller meeting of influential agents last Thursday, but canceled it because of the ongoing labor talks (Liz Mullen, SportsBusiness Journal). Rosenhaus added, "There's unity among the agents (and) certainly among the players. There's great confidence in the leadership. There's a tremendous plan should there be a lockout" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 2/26). Agent Mark Slough: "This is not going to be resolved soon, and the agent community is solidly behind De. I left feeling more confident in our union leadership. The owners are trying to send us back to pre-1987 levels" (PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS, 2/26).

OUT OF THE LOOP? YAHOO SPORTS' Jason Cole reported a "number of player reps now fear that the weakest link to how the union handles the labor battle with owners is the agent community itself." A "half-dozen" agents estimated that "perhaps as few as 5 percent of the almost 1,000 agents in attendance Friday appeared capable of explaining the complex issues to the players they represent." One agent: "It was scary how little some of the agents knew about what's going on and what's about to happen." Cole wrote if the NFL as expected votes Thursday "to lock out the players and the union decertifies when the sides fail to reach a new CBA extension, the failure of agents to adequately understand the issues at hand could play a role in the leverage game between the league and the union." One agent said, "The problem you're going to have is that instead of calming the players down, you're going to have a lot of agents panicking" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 2/27).

PLAYING NEW ROLES: The AP's Michael Marot reported agents are "now playing a new role for their clients" due to the potential lockout. Dogra said, "We're advising players on COBRA insurance to anything that involves finances to the football side of it." Most agents are "now talking frequently about COBRA coverage, which one agent estimates will cost players $800 to $900 per month to cover their families," and some are "advising clients to take out additional medical policies or disability insurance." Agent Brian Mackler said that "most of his clients now have policies with Lloyds of London, and he's reminding those who are 26 years old or younger that the new federal health care law allows them to sign up on their parents' medical plans, too" (AP, 2/26).
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