SBJ/October 31-November 6, 2011/Labor and Agents

Thirteen players sign declarations in response to NBA suit

Liz Mullen
National Basketball Players Association President Derek Fisher, New Orleans guard Chris Paul and 11 other NBA players have signed sworn declarations that they have not threatened a disclaimer of interest of the union’s status. The declarations were made as part of the NBA’s ongoing lawsuit against the players.

The union has asked a U.S. District Court judge in New York to dismiss the lawsuit, which the league first brought against the players in August seeking a declaratory judgment that the ongoing lockout is legal. Judge Paul Gardephe is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case on Tuesday.

The NBA filed the lawsuit — as well as, on the same day, an unfair labor practices charge against the NBPA — alleging that the NBPA has used the threat of decertifiying the union by disclaiming interest as an impermissible pressure tactic to avoid negotiating a collective-bargaining agreement in good faith.

The league sued Fisher, Paul and 11 other players but seeks to have those players represent all NBA players as a class. The other
GETTY IMAGES; NBAE / GETTY IMAGES
Chris Paul (top left), union President Derek Fisher and Jimmer Fredette were among those signing.
players are Theo Ratliff, Mike Dunleavy, Roger Mason Jr., Maurice Evans, Matt Bonner, Keyon Dooling, James Jones, Etan Thomas, Amar’e Stoudemire, and incoming rookies Jimmer Fredette and Charles Jenkins.

In their declarations, the players stated: “In the weeks and months leading up to the expiration of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NBA and the NBPA, and since that time, I have not made, nor have I ever heard of being made, any threats against the NBA or its teams that the NBPA will disclaim its union status or that I or any other player will file an antitrust suit, nor has there been any decision to take such action.”

WINTER TAKING LESSER ROLE WITH AGENCY: Veteran NHL player agent Ritch Winter founded his company, The Sports Corporation, in 1985 by himself, but he is no longer running it and does not have a major stake in the firm.

“I sold a large portion of my shares,” Winter said in a recent phone interview, adding that he sold them to his partners Gerry Johannson and Steve Kotlowitz. “Gerry is now the majority shareholder, and I continue to be a shareholder,” he added.

Winter said he is now working as a consultant for Switzerland-based 4sports & Entertainment and will help that company increase its presence in North America, but he added that he also will still represent some of his existing clients, including Marian Hossa, Ilya Bryzgalov and Cody Hodgson.

Johannson said Winter remains a consultant to The Sports Corporation. Asked if Winter still has an equity stake in the company, Johannson said, “I wouldn’t define it as an equity stake. I would say he retains an interest.” The Sports Corporation represents about 35 NHL players, including Ryan Getzlaf, Milan Lucic, Carey Price and Dustin Penner.

Winter and Johannson said the change occurred about six months ago, but it only became public last week, after TSN reported it.
 
EXCEL SIGNS KUCHAR: Excel Sports Management, which launched a golf division earlier this year when Tiger Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, joined as a partner, has signed Matt Kuchar, the No. 9 ranked golfer in the world and No. 3 ranked U.S. player.

“[Kuchar] has established himself as a dominant force, and we look forward to helping elevate his profile around the world,” Steinberg said.

Kuchar plays Bridgestone equipment and wears Bridgestone on his headwear in a deal that has a few years to go. He was last represented by Peter Jacobsen but has had several agents in his career, including CSE and Wilhelmina.
 
LEGACY SIGNS HILL: Legacy Sports Group has signed Arizona Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill for representation. Agents Greg Genske and Brian Peters will represent him. He was formerly represented by Beverly Hills Sports Council.

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

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