SBJ/November 14-20, 2011/Labor and Agents

No league discipline for players investing in Ala. bingo parlor

Liz Mullen
The NFL will not discipline players who invested in what was supposed to be a gambling-style bingo parlor in Alabama, an NFL spokesman said last week.

Yahoo! Sports reported in June that at least 25 current and former NFL players had invested in the project in Dothan, Ala., and that the players might face discipline for violating the league’s policy against NFL employees associating with any gaming operation.

Greg Aiello, NFL senior vice president of public relations, said in an email last week, “The bingo parlor never came to fruition. Therefore, there was no basis for any action by our office.”

Meanwhile, some of the players who invested in the project — which was first called Country Crossing and has since been renamed Center Stage — have been trying to get their money back through the courts.

Owens filed suit over his investment in what was billed as a gambling-style bingo parlor.
Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
The entertainment development is in operation and is operating bingo games, but the games are not the high-profit-margin, gambling-style games players believed they were investing in.

Free agent wide receiver Terrell Owens filed a lawsuit late last month in a Palm Beach County, Fla., state court against his attorney, Pamela Linden, and her law firm, Greenberg Traurig, alleging negligence and breach of fiduciary duties over his investment of more than $2 million in the project. The lawsuit contends that Linden organized a limited liability company that Owens used to invest in the project.

Greenberg Traurig, in a statement on behalf of Linden and the firm, said, “We did not represent Mr. Owens in the investment referenced. To the extent we represented him in other matters, the facts will show the firm and its attorneys acted faithfully and appropriately at all times.”

The lawsuit also states that Owens’ financial adviser, Jeff Rubin, and other employees of financial advisory firm Pro Sports Financial, where Rubin was president, told Owens about the investment and promised him a 15 percent rate of return on his investment and that it was unique to Alabama because it would run a high-profit-margin electronic bingo operation.

Rubin and Pro Sports Financial are not, however, named defendants in the lawsuit.

However, another NFL player, Buffalo wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, has a $525,000 judgment in a state court in Broward County, Fla., against Rubin, Pro Sports Financial and Ronnie Gilley Properties, the developer of the project. The judgment was entered against them in June.

Attorney Michael Simon represents both Parrish and Owens, but he declined to comment on the litigation.

Patricia Christiansen, Rubin’s attorney in the Parrish case, said Rubin is not going to appeal the judgment and that Florida-based Pro Sports Financial is no longer operating. She said Rubin shut down Pro Sports Financial several months ago to run Center Stage on a full-time basis.

Rubin did not return messages left for him at Center Stage.

Said Christiansen, “All I know is [Pro Sports Financial] is out of business,” adding that the NFL player clients of the firm have “gone to other advisers.”

PRIORITY, OCTAGON SIGN NFL PLAYERS: Priority Sports & Entertainment agent Deryk Gilmore has signed New York Jets guard Brandon Moore. He was previously represented by NFL player agent Hadley Engelhard. … Washington Redskins running back Ryan Torain has signed with Octagon football agent Sean Howard. Torain most recently was represented by Lamont Smith, and earlier this year he was represented by Jack Scharf.

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

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