SBJ/20090309/This Week's News

Cornwell puts his positions out in the open

Call him the write-in candidate. Player lawyer David Cornwell, spurned by the NFLPA search process, secured the recommendations of three player representatives last week and now is the fourth candidate for the executive director position.

Cornwell, 48, who has represented players in matters ranging from drug suspensions to agent disputes, was seen as a strong contender until eliminated last month by the executive committee. His removal had been criticized in some quarters because, as a former agent, NFL executive and now top player lawyer, he had significant credentials.

Cornwell has posted his campaign positions on his Web site, www.dnkcornwell.com, differentiating him from the other candidates, whose positions are not public. Not surprisingly, he calls the coming labor talks with owners the biggest issue and, mirroring the NFLPA’s position, points to uneven revenue among the teams as the real problem, not player salaries.

“The owners’ inability to reconcile the tension created by these economic realities has caused them to look to players for relief,” he writes. Like the NFLPA, he calls on owners to open their books.

He has two new positions that will be sure to rankle the owners: guaranteed compensation, and sharing future earnings growth from new league and team investments.

Cornwell, a Tufts University graduate, was an NFL counsel from 1987 to 1992, before a short stint as a sports agent. He joined Upper Deck in 1993, and formed his current firm, DNK Cornwell, in 1997.

Cornwell has served as the primary counsel for agents Leigh Steinberg, Jeff Moorad, Eugene Parker, Dan Fegan and Michael Gillis. He was part of the trial team that obtained a $44 million judgment for Steinberg against Steinberg’s former partner, David Dunn. (The judgment was overturned on appeal, based on errors by the trial judge.)

He most recently defended NFL players faced with suspensions for taking banned substances, allegedly unknowingly, from the company StarCaps. A federal court in December halted the suspensions, and the case is now before the court.  The NFLPA took the case to court, but Cornwell is credited with uncovering the evidence that the NFL may have known the supplements were tainted and did nothing to notify the players.

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