SBJ/November 11 - 17, 2002/Labor Agents

Under settlement, NFL will advise teams not to talk about offers to draft picks

The NFL has agreed to advise team officials not to talk to other teams about offers they make to NFL draft picks, as part of a settlement with the NFL Players Association in which the union agreed to drop its collusion case.

The NFLPA began an investigation in August into whether officials of the Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs colluded in negotiating the contracts of the Chiefs' top pick, No. 6 overall draft choice Ryan Sims, and the Vikings' top pick, overall No. 7 Bryant McKinnie.

The NFL collective-bargaining agreement prohibits teams from making agreements about what they will pay or offer players. Richard Berthelsen, general counsel of the NFLPA, said NFL teams could raise a defense that there is no prohibition about talking to other teams about what they offer players.


The agreement by the NFL to advise teams not to talk about offers "is a very good result and it saves us from the costs and uncertainties of litigation," Berthlesen said.

Greg Aiello, NFL spokesman, said the NFL and the teams did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the agreement.

"We have agreed to advise our clubs that even though we don't believe there is any violation of the CBA being committed by clubs discussing offers, the union has made it clear they will bring collusion charges [if that occurs]," Aiello said.

"We are not establishing a league rule that says the clubs can't talk. We are telling clubs the union views this as a problem and they will bring these collusion cases ... and make life difficult for you."

Concurrent with the settlement of the collusion case, McKinnie signed a reported five-year, $13.55 million contract, $9.35 million of it guaranteed, with the Vikings. Sims, whose season ended when he broke his elbow in a game last month, signed a seven-year deal with the Chiefs in late August that will pay him a reported $16.8 million to $25 million, based on incentives, and included a $9.75 million signing bonus.

  THOMAS SELLS TO CSMG: Veteran basketball agent Henry Thomas has sold his company, Thomas Sports Management, to sports management firm CSMG Inc. and will lead a new basketball division there as part of the deal.

Thomas, who has been an agent since 1989 and represented retired NBA star Tim Hardaway, brings with him 12 basketball clients, including Michael Finley of the Dallas Mavericks and Marcus Fizer of the Chicago Bulls. His other 10 clients are playing in the National Basketball Development League or overseas.

Thomas declined to reveal the purchase price he received. CSMG is, and Thomas Sports Management was, based in the Chicago area.

Thomas said he considered merging his company into a larger sports agency for two or three years before striking a deal with CSMG. "The way this industry is going, I think the way to effectively compete for top prospects, I need more resources behind me," he said.

CSMG, led by Chairman Alan Nero, represents about 200 athletes worldwide, including baseball, football and basketball players and professional golfers.

  NBPA APPEALS ARBITRATOR'S DECISION: National Basketball Players Association officials have appealed the decision of an arbitrator who ruled that an NBA policy to withhold luxury tax and player escrow funds from teams with big payrolls does not violate the collective-bargaining agreement.

The decision of arbitrator Charles Renfrew has been appealed to a three-member arbitrator panel, said Jeffrey Kessler, outside counsel to the NBPA and a partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges.

The panel of arbitrators has not yet been selected by the NBA and the NBPA, Kessler said. A decision will likely take at least a few months.

NBPA Executive Director Billy Hunter has called the league policy to withhold tax and escrow funds from high-spending teams a double tax that violates the spirit and intent of the collective-bargaining agreement. Renfrew agreed with the NBA's argument that the policy should stand because the players union did not restrict in the collective-bargaining agreement how the league could distribute the money.

Liz Mullen can be reached at

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