SBJ/September 9 - 15, 2002/Labor Agents

NFLPA: Share of 2002 class that swapped agents topped 10%

How bad was client stealing and agent hopping during the 2002 NFL draft season?

Thirty players, or 11.6 percent of the 259 players drafted this year, changed agents at least once, according to new research by the NFL Players Association. Three of this year's draftees hired three different agents.

NFLPA director of research M.J. Duberstein said the number of rookie players who switched agents was lower than expected, considering the complaints by agents that this past season was the worst on record for client poaching.

"If you stood outside our meeting at the combine, the prevailing wisdom was you'd better get your player and sit on him, because if not, someone is going to steal him," Duberstein said.

Duberstein and his assistants put together the report, titled "Agents and Players: An NFL Overview," by sifting through thousands of NFL standard player representation agreements filed with the union. Among the interesting facts in the report:

• The majority of certified NFLPA agents, 57 percent, do not represent a single player in the NFL, and 85 percent of certified NFL agents have five or fewer clients.

• Of those agents with clients, only 77, or 16 percent, represent 11 or more NFL players.

• The vast majority of players pay their agents the maximum allowed, or 3 percent of their earnings. More than 86 percent of the about 9,400 player representation agreements received by the players association between 1999 and 2002 paid the agent 3 percent.

• About 20 percent of first-round picks and 18 percent of second-round picks paid their agents less than the maximum 3 percent. But only 5 percent to 9 percent of players selected in the third to seventh rounds paid their agents less than the maximum.

Duberstein said this report was the first extensive study of agent and player relationships. He plans to do it again next year.

NFLPA WINS COURT DECISION: A federal judge has upheld the NFLPA's reprimand of NFL agent Carl Poston for an incident involving one of his employees arranging a plane ticket for a then-NCAA eligible football player.

U.S. District Judge James Cacheris ordered that a decision by NFLPA arbitrator Roger Kaplan to issue Poston a letter of reprimand be upheld. Cacheris ruled Poston did not meet the legal standard to overturn the disciplinary action, which he argued in court papers hurt his ability to attract and maintain clients.

The incident involved a plane ticket arranged for Laveranues Coles, now an NFL player, while he was at Florida State. Coles was declared ineligible to play one game at FSU after a university investigation determined that the incident violated NCAA rules.

Kaplan found that Poston's employee instructed a travel agent to lie about who booked and bought the plane ticket. Kaplan ruled that although Poston did not know about or encourage the employee's behavior, he must be held responsible for it, since he was the supervisor.

"The bottom line is this confirms the fact that agents are responsible for people who work for them," said NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen. "That was the decision of our disciplinary committee and the position of arbitrator Kaplan and now the position of the federal court."

Poston's attorney, Don Petersen, said his client was undecided about whether to appeal the decision, noting Poston must meet a difficult legal standard to win an appeal.

Contact Liz Mullen at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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Related Topics:

Football, Labor and Agents, NCAA, NFL

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