SBJ/July 25-31, 2011/Labor and Agents

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  • NBA to present evidence, witnesses in NLRB investigation

    Liz Mullen
    The NBA will present evidence and witnesses in the National Labor Relations Board investigation of the National Basketball Players Association’s unfair labor practices charge, an attorney for the union said last week.

    NBPA officials have been hoping the charge, which was originally filed in May, will result in the board seeking an injunction in federal court to stop the NBA lockout that began on July 1. It is unclear what witnesses or evidence the league will present, but the league has maintained that the allegations the union made against the league involving the negotiations leading up to the lockout are without merit.

    The NBA did not respond to an email seeking comment and requesting an interview regarding the investigation.

    Larry Katz, outside counsel to the NBPA, said the NBA’s decision to provide evidence and witnesses will delay action by the board by at least 30 to 60 days. Katz previously has said he was hopeful the NLRB would issue a complaint as soon as the end of this month.

    “They are doing this to delay the NLRB proceeding,” Katz said. “They want to put off what they fear is an eventual complaint. There is no real factual dispute as to what happened in this negotiation. Most of it is in writing.”

    Katz, a partner with the firm Steptoe & Johnson, has worked on NLRB cases for 40 years, almost always for employers.

    Katz and other labor lawyers said that typically, when two parties submit conflicting factual information, the NLRB will issue a complaint and an administrative law judge will hold a hearing. “For example, if we say the lockout is an unfair labor practice, it is up to us to provide sufficient facts and legal arguments to support that claim,” Katz said. “If the NBA submits conflicting facts, that is the job of an administrative law judge to decide.”

    The NLRB may take no action in cases where one party, usually the charging party, does not submit evidence to support its allegations, he said. NBPA officials are hoping a complaint be will issued, an administrative law judge will hear the case and the NLRB will seek an injunction before a federal judge to end the lockout.

    “Only in a small number of cases does the NLRB seek injunctions,” said Bill Gould, former chairman of the NLRB and a current Stanford Law School professor. “If the [NLRB] general counsel found merit in the charge and issues a complaint, it is quite possible that [the counsel] might ask the board to seek an injunction because of the abbreviated career duration of employees,” said Gould, noting that NBA players have shorter careers than most employees.

    GETTY IMAGES
    U.S. Open junior champ Jack Sock, a CAA Sports client, has a new deal with Adidas.
    CAA SIGNS SOCK: CAA Sports
    has signed tennis player Jack Sock, the 2010 U.S. Open junior champion who recently turned professional, and negotiated a long-term head-to-toe sponsorship deal for him with Adidas. As part of the deal, Sock, 18, will train at the Adidas Pro Tennis Camp in Las Vegas. Other details of the sponsorship were not available.

    Sock will be represented by a team of agents, led by Amit Naor. CAA’s tennis clients include world No. 1 player Novak Djokovic and No. 4-ranked Andy Murray.

    CAA SIGNS VOLLMER, NICKS: CAA Football has signed All-Pro New England Patriots offensive tackle Sebastian Vollmer and Pro Bowl offensive guard Carl Nicks, who played for the New Orleans Saints last year. NFL agent and CAA Football co-head Ben Dogra will lead the team of agents representing the players.

    Nicks was a fifth-round draft pick in 2008. He would have been a restricted free agent under the old collective-bargaining agreement rules, but it was unclear, at press time for this column, what his status would be under the rules of any new CBA potentially approved last week.

    Vollmer is under contract with the Patriots.

    VISION SIGNS RYAN: Vision Sports Group, a New York agency that specializes in representing broadcasters, has signed Fox Sports NFL analyst Tim Ryan for representation. Vision President Maury Gostfrand will represent Ryan, who also works as a host on Sirius Satellite Radio.

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

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