SBJ/February 28 - March 6, 2011/Labor and Agents

Second set of NFL-NFLPA talks continues on parallel track

Liz Mullen
While the NFL Players Association and the NFL have been meeting about a new collective-bargaining agreement, the union and the league also have been meeting about another deal: a new commercial agreement that covers NFL sponsors’ rights to use NFL players in advertising.

The overall sponsorship agreement between the NFLPA and the NFL is a separate document from the NFL CBA, but it expires at the same time: on March 4.

“The position of NFL Players is we would be willing to do a commercial deal outside of the CBA and remain willing to discuss the possibility,” said Keith Gordon, president of NFL Players, the NFLPA’s marketing and licensing arm. “At this point, no deal has been reached and no additional sessions have been scheduled to discuss the commercial agreements since prior to the Super Bowl,” Gordon said early last week.

Under the agreement, the NFL pays NFL Players a fee, which was about $25 million in 2009. In exchange, NFL sponsors have the right to use six or more NFL players in advertising, and NFL Players does not sign separate deals with companies that compete with NFL sponsors.

NFL Players has sent two letters to NFL sponsors — one in August, one later last year — offering them a chance to sign deals with them in order to continue their rights to use NFL players in advertising. As of March 4, NFL Players would also be able to sign companies that compete with existing NFL sponsors to agreements.

A source said that about 80 percent of the NFL’s current sponsors have had dialogue with NFL Players about renewing a deal, and other interested sponsors also have contacted the union’s licensing arm.

ORNSTEIN EXPECTED TO REPORT TO PRISON: Mike Ornstein, best known as the former marketing agent to Reggie Bush, is expected to begin serving eight months in prison this week, sources said, after pleading guilty last year to two federal felonies involving plans to sell Super Bowl tickets and NFL jerseys falsely advertised as game-worn.

Ornstein has not officially been assigned to a prison, said Chris Burke, spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The bureau website last week stated that Ornstein was “in transit,” which generally means he is in custody to some degree. “The marshals have him somewhere, but he hasn’t gone to his designated facility,” Burke said.

Ornstein’s attorney didn’t return a phone call, but he has previously asked the U.S. District Court in Cleveland that Ornstein be assigned to Taft Correctional Institution, a medical facility prison in California.

Ornstein was sentenced in November to eight months in prison at a hearing in which federal prosecutors said he was cooperating with multiple ongoing federal investigations. In January, his attorneys and the government asked for more time before he had to report for prison in a motion that was filed under seal.

Lawrence
Lawrence
AGENT PAUL LAWRENCE DIES: Paul Lawrence, an agent with NFL player rep firm Maximum Sports Management, died suddenly of a heart attack earlier this month while playing basketball near his home in Seattle. He was 44.

“It was a big loss for us,” said NFL agent and Maximum President Eugene Parker. “He was so personable. All of our clients and everybody in the company were extremely close to him.”

Lawrence worked with Parker on a number of player clients, including New Orleans Saints cornerback Tracy Porter and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Despite the cutthroat nature of the NFL agent business, Lawrence was respected and liked by rival agents.

He is survived by his wife, Holli, two daughters and a son. Memorial contributions are being taken at Chase Bank branches for the Paul O. Lawrence Children’s Memorial Fund.

SIGNED FOR REPRESENTATION … : CAA Sports has signed Philadelphia 76ers guard Lou Williams for representation. A team of CAA agents, led by Leon Rose, will represent Williams, who was previously represented by Merle Scott. … NFL agent Drew Rosenhaus has signed USC defensive tackle Jurrell Casey for representation in the NFL draft. Casey was previously represented by Impact Sports.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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