SBJ/August 13-19, 2012/Labor and Agents

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  • CSI expands beyond football, signs former MLBer Justice

    Liz Mullen
    Creative Sports International, a sports marketing firm that works primarily with NFL players for off-the-field deals, has signed former MLB slugger David Justice for marketing, speaking and broadcasting work.

    Fadde Mikhail, president and founder of Los Angeles-based CSI, said he is in talks about public appearances and broadcasting deals for Justice, who retired after the 2002 MLB season. Justice has worked in the past as a game analyst for both ESPN and the New York Yankees’ YES Network. Mikhail said Justice took time off from broadcasting in the last few years to be with his family, in the San Diego area.

    David Justice, who has worked for ESPN and YES, is getting back into broadcasting.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    Mikhail said the talks about broadcasting deals for Justice are for the Southern California area and nationally, but he declined to be more specific.

    Mikhail opened CSI in 2008 after working for two years for The Sports Link, the agency owned by sports marketing agent Mike Ornstein.

    CSI’s other clients include New Orleans Saints running back Darren Sproles, Buffalo Bills running back C.J. Spiller, New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie and Cincinnati Bengals safety Taylor Mays.

    ROSENHAUS EMPLOYEE ASKS FOR AN INVESTIGATION: An attorney for an employee of Rosenhaus Sports Representation has sent a letter to the NFL Players Association asking that the union investigate agents and brothers Drew and Jason Rosenhaus for alleged violations of NFLPA agent regulations.

    The allegations, first reported by Yahoo Sports, include breach of contract and false accusations against Danny Martoe, who is not an NFLPA-certified agent but has worked as a recruiter and client service manager for the Miami-based NFL player representation firm since 2005.

    Rosenhaus said the allegations were untrue and were manufactured by people with motives to harm his agency. “Ultimately their efforts will not work,” Rosenhaus said. He declined to comment further.

    David Cornwell, attorney for Martoe, declined to comment. It was unclear whether Martoe was still an employee of Rosenhaus Sports, but he was still listed as a staff member on the agency’s website last week. The NFLPA would not comment, but the union investigates allegations made against certified agents regarding possible agent-rule violations as a matter of course.

    MCAFEE LEAVES NFLPA: Longtime NFLPA staff counsel Arthur McAfee has left the union after 17 years to pursue other opportunities.

    McAfee, who joined the NFLPA in August 1995, advised agents regarding contracts, players grievances, injuries, personal conduct, disciplinary matters and collective bargaining. Before coming to the NFLPA, he worked for IMG Football and for the NCAA, in their enforcement department.

    McAfee said he does not know what he is going to do next. “We accomplished a lot,” he said of his time at the NFLPA. “I was involved in four CBA extensions.”

    OCTAGON SIGNS PACKERS COACH: Octagon has signed Green Bay Packers assistant head coach and linebackers coach Winston Moss for representation. A team of agents led by Phil de Picciotto, Octagon Inc. president, and NFL agent Doug Hendrickson will represent him.

    VISION SPORTS SIGNS TWO: Vision Sports Group, a New York-based agency that specializes in representing sports broadcasters, has signed New Orleans Hornets play-by-play announcer Joel Meyers and former NFL defensive lineman Trevor Pryce for broadcasting work.

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

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  • Unique Dolphins deal benefits player, team

    Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was the only player selected in the top nine spots of this year’s NFL draft who did not avoid offset language in his contract with his club, but what he got in exchange was increased cash flow allowing him to get large chunks of his pay earlier than some other players.

    This year provided the first real test of how the new rookie pay system put in place through last year’s collective-bargaining agreement would work. The system was meant to reduce the amount of money paid to high draft picks who had never played in the NFL. It also was meant to prevent rookie holdouts by eliminating a lot of contract language that agents and clubs could haggle over before agreeing to a deal.

    Dolphins rookie Ryan Tannehill is set to get $2.9 million in training camp bonuses.
    Photo by: GETTY IMAGES
    For the first time in years, clubs started signing their top picks weeks after the draft, rather than waiting until mid-July as they have done in past years. But signings eventually hit a snag, especially among first- and third-round picks. In early June, 18 first-round picks and 17 third-round picks were unsigned.

    The holdup for the third-rounders typically involved disagreements between agents and general managers over the amount of money a player would receive compared to a club’s slot number for the pick. In the end, three third-round picks got 99 percent or 100 percent of the maximum compensation allowed, sources said: tight end Dwayne Allen, who was taken by Indianapolis as the first pick of the third round; cornerback Trumaine Johnson, the second pick of the third round, by St. Louis; and quarterback Russell Wilson, selected by Seattle with the 12th pick of the third round.

    Agents Pat Dye and Michael Perrett of SportsTrust Advisors represent Allen; agents Joel Segal and Chafie Fields of Lagardère Unlimited represent Johnson; and agent Bus Cook represents Wilson.

    In the first round, the disagreement typically was over offset language, which agents were trying to get removed and clubs were trying to keep in the contracts. The language would offset the amount of money the original club would have to pay the player if he were to be cut and signed by another team.

    One prominent agent, when asked why the language mattered, said, “It only matters if you are a bust.” Still, the argument over the language held up a number of deals for first-round picks. The last first-rounder to sign, wide receiver Justin Blackmon, signed a deal with Jacksonville, who selected him No. 5 overall, on Aug. 6. He missed 11 days of training camp.

    All players selected in this year’s draft have now been signed.

    Tannehill, the No. 8 overall pick, did not want to miss a day of camp with the Dolphins, said Dye, his agent, but he held out in hopes of getting the offset language out of the contract. He was with the team, contract signed, 72 hours after camp began.

    In the end, he signed the deal because of a compromise Dye worked out with the Dolphins that would allow Tannehill to get his money quicker. “The deal is unique and unprecedented in terms of its cash flow, and those were the terms the Dolphins made to make it palatable,” Dye said.

    Under the terms of the deal, Tannehill will get his entire $7.65 million signing bonus within the first 60 days. The contract also pays him about $2.9 million in training camp bonuses in years two, three and four of the deal. Normally, he would have to receive those future bonuses in game checks over the 17 weeks of the regular season, Dye said.

    A number of agents have said that NFL clubs don’t like to cut high-first-round picks, even if they are busts, for years anyway. Asked about that, Dye said, “As the owner said to Ryan directly during the holdout, ‘The likelihood of you being released in the first four years is akin to the likelihood of you getting hit by a bus.’”

    The NFL CBA was agreed to last summer, so this year was the second year of negotiating rookie deals under the system, but agents said this was really the first year in which the market really played out. Clubs and agents last year scrambled to sign all of their rookies as well as both restricted and unrestricted free agents in about a week’s time in order to open training camps after the NFL lockout ended.

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  • Union asking to reopen settlement with NFL

    The NFL Players Association wants to reopen the legal settlement that ended last year’s lockout, a move that the league, which fought for removal of federal oversight of its labor relations, is expected to oppose.

    The NFLPA made its motion before U.S. District Judge David Doty, who last week approved a briefing schedule on the matter, indicating he will consider the union’s argument.

    A key condition for the NFL in last year’s new collective-bargaining agreement was ending Doty’s two decades of judicial oversight, so the prospect of a return to his Minnesota federal court could be cause for alarm at the league.

    The NFL declined to comment. The NFLPA did not reply for comment.

    The NFLPA’s motion is tied to its contention that the NFL engaged in collusion in 2010 by allegedly secretly setting a salary cap in an uncapped season. Such claims appear to be barred by both the CBA and by last year’s settlement agreement, signed by Doty, that ended the Brady antitrust lawsuit and the previously created White class, under which judicial oversight operated. But the NFLPA, earlier this month, filed what is known as a rule 60 motion, which essentially contends that the league was duplicitous in getting Doty and the union to sign off on the settlement, thereby providing grounds for the settlement to be invalidated for the purposes of the collusion claim.

    “This motion is necessary as a basis for the Court to relieve the White Class from the [settlement] … due to the NFL’s and the Clubs’ affirmative concealment of the facts underlying the claims and related misconduct,” the NFLPA wrote in the motion.

    The motion says if Doty were to find that the CBA and settlement do not bar the collusion claim, the union would drop the rule 60 effort. That ruling, however, would come in the context of language in the CBA and settlement that appears to disallow the claim.

    The CBA, for example, says, the NFLPA “releases and covenants not to sue … the NFL or any NFL Club or any NFL affiliate with respect to any antitrust or other claim asserted in White v NFL or Brady v NFL, including … collusion with respect to any league year prior to 2011.”

    Meanwhile, the settlement agreement says its own standing is “contingent upon the release and dismissal with prejudice by the NFLPA of any and all claims asserted … including … collusion in the 2010 league year.”

    The NFLPA has said that this referenced collusion refers to an unrelated claim about the lack of restricted free agent signings in 2010 and not the alleged secret salary cap.

    The White antitrust suit, named after the late Reggie White, was filed in 1993 and led to a new CBA. As part of that agreement, lawsuits brought by the union and league related to the CBA went to Doty. His rulings over the subsequent two decades often favored the players, leading the NFL to twice, unsuccessfully, try to have him removed.

    “The NFL was the only league whose CBA was overseen by a federal court,” said Marc Ganis, a sports consultant with ties to the league, explaining how concerned the NFL would be at the prospect of Doty’s re-entry. “It was vital for them that they get out of that.”

    Brady v. NFL was filed in March 2011 as part of the lockout. The sides settled as part of the resolution of the lockout, and the settlement ended Doty’s oversight.

    But when news emerged in March of this year that the league had docked the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys cap space because of how the clubs structured contracts in 2010, it appeared to suggest a coordinated effort on behalf of the NFL to manage spending in a season when the CBA barred that. The NFL has denied collusion, but the NFLPA filed a claim of billions of dollars before Doty in May.

    The action was brought to Doty because the alleged behavior, occurring in 2010, happened at a time when he did officially have oversight.
    Doty has set a hearing date of Sept. 6, which is one day after the NFL regular season begins.

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  • Workers’ comp ruling a victory for NFL

    The NFL scored a legal victory last week in its continuing battle with players over where they can file for workers’ compensation, as an appeals court ruled that the cumulative injuries a player received over the course of his career were not grounds to file a claim in California.

    The NFL Players Association and NFL could not resolve the issue in last year’s collective-bargaining agreement. Players have filed a series of lawsuits seeking to file claims in California, which is far more generous with comp claims than other states.

    The NFLPA has argued that even if a player’s contract requires him to file such claims in his home state, California law trumps those provisions.

    The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, believed to be the first appeals court to rule on the issue, rejected that argument in a case brought by former Tennessee Titans lineman and hall of famer Bruce Matthews.

    The decision, however, also appeared to open a loophole for other claims, as the court said that had Matthews pointed to a specific injury he suffered while playing in California, that could have been reason to override his contract’s restrictions on where he could file claims.

    “If Matthews had suffered an injury requiring medical treatment while playing a game in California, [that] would appear to foreclose enforcement of the Tennessee choice of law clause in his employment contract,” the court wrote.

    The NFL in a statement said, “The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reached the logical conclusion that out-of-state players who signed contracts promising to file workers’ compensation only in the state in which they primarily worked must live up to those contracts when they allege injury in multiple states. The court confirmed that California’s public policy is to protect California employees who were injured in California, not out-of-state employees who not only can seek workers’ compensation benefits elsewhere but promised to do so.”

    The NFLPA did not reply for comment.

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