SBJ/Sept. 1-7, 2014/Labor and Agents

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  • Trask aims for spot on bookshelf; Pagano’s agent already there

    CBS Sports broadcaster and former Oakland Raiders CEO Amy Trask is writing a book on her life as a female executive in the NFL, and her agent, Maxx Sports & Entertainment President Mark Lepselter, plans to begin talks with prospective publishers this week.

    “The book will be my reflections on and anecdotes from almost three decades with the Raiders and in the National Football League,” Trask said last week. “I will also share my views on and my experience as a woman in business.”

    Trask has been working on the book for about a month with longtime football reporter Michael Freeman, who writes on the NFL for Bleacher Report.

    Trask
    Trask resigned as Raiders CEO in May 2013 after having worked at the team since 1987, when she was hired as a junior lawyer. Raiders owner Al Davis promoted her in 1997 to be the first female CEO of an NFL team.

    Lepselter signed Trask as a client last year and negotiated her deal with CBS Sports. She is an analyst with CBS Sports Network’s “That Other Pregame Show,” and, as was announced last week, is one of four featured anchors of an all-female sports talk show, “We Need to Talk,” that will have its premiere Sept. 30.

    Lepselter said that he plans to speak to a variety of publishers after Labor Day and that he is confident that he will sell the book. He noted that Trask has a number of funny stories about working for the Raiders and about the late Davis. “It is not ­— and I want to make it clear — in any way, shape or form a ‘tell-all,’” Lepselter said.
    Trask agreed, saying, “It is not my intent to be salacious.”

    Trask noted that books on women succeeding in business are very topical now. “I don’t plan to lecture or to preach, but rather to share my views, on what worked for me, in a particularly male-dominated business,” Trask said. “But I don’t want to profess to know what the answer or the best strategy or best solution is for all women. Women are different.”

    Agent Bruce Tollner co-wrote Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano’s book.

    > NFL AGENT WRITES BOOK: Several high-profile agents have written books on what it is like to be in the business, but NFL agent Bruce Tollner has a book out this summer on a completely different subject.

    Tollner co-wrote a book with Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano detailing the coach’s battle with leukemia during the 2012 season.

    “Sidelined: Overcoming Odds through Unity, Passion and Perseverance” was published in June by Christian publisher Zondervan, a division of HarperCollins.

    Tollner represents Pagano, but they have been friends for 30 years. Pagano started his coaching career as an assistant under Tollner’s father, Ted Tollner, at Southern Cal in the 1980s.

    Pagano was hesitant about writing the book, but Tollner convinced him that it would help others diagnosed with cancer, and proceeds have been donated to cancer-research charities. Tollner also wrote “The Child Game Plan,” a plan for parents to help their children become happy and productive adults that he self-published in 2010.

    Tollner
    Tollner co-founded Rep 1 Sports with his younger cousin, Ryan Tollner, in 2006, and they represent about 50 NFL players, including Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles.

    > SPORTSTRUST SIGNS NFL PLAYERS: SportsTrust Advisors has signed Tennessee Titans linebacker Moise Fokou and San Diego Chargers offensive tackle Willie Smith.

    SportsTrust’s Pat Dye Jr. and Bill Johnson will represent the players.

    Fokou was represented by Sports International Group. Smith was represented by Reaves Coley.

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

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  • Gilbert: Firms back case for ending CBA

    Sean Gilbert, the former NFL defensive tackle who is campaigning for the job of NFL Players Association executive director held by DeMaurice Smith, has consulted with two major New York law firms about his plan to terminate the NFL collective-bargaining agreement based on collusion claims.

    “Both firms expressed confidence in the case,” said Gilbert last week via email. He declined to name the firms. Gilbert also said he has evidence that NFL clubs colluded in violation of the CBA, but he would not provide any information on what that evidence is. 

    “Termination of the CBA” was the first point on Gilbert’s 23-point platform that he unveiled last week. Gilbert told reporters he was “extremely” confident that the current CBA, which extends until 2021, could be terminated and he would then be able to negotiate a host of better terms for players. 

    The campaign by Gilbert marks the most public challenge to Smith’s leadership at the union. Smith has led the NFLPA since 2009 and is up for re-election in March. He was previously re-elected, unanimously, in 2012.

    The NFLPA declined to comment on Gilbert or his campaign. The NFL also did not reply to emails seeking comment about Gilbert’s plan to terminate the CBA.

    But the idea of getting a new, better deal for players raised the hopes of some agents last week. Many have privately expressed frustration about the current CBA, especially the rookie pay system, which restricts how much money players can earn in their first few years in the league. 

    The NFLPA has defended the labor deal on a number of grounds, including that teams now have a minimum cash spend that must be spent on players and that the 2014 NFL salary cap of $133 million is the highest in league history.

    Some sports law experts were skeptical last week of Gilbert’s assertion that he has evidence of collusion that could result in the termination of the current CBA.

    Gary Roberts, a sports law professor at Indiana University who formerly worked at Covington & Burling, the NFL’s outside law firm, said arbitrators would be reluctant to allow a clause like the anti-collusion provision in the NFL CBA to trigger the end of the agreement. Collusion would have to be “egregious,” Roberts said, adding that he knows a lot of NFL agents and is not aware of any such claims of collusion. 

    Other lawyers also questioned what evidence Gilbert could have and, if he does have it, why he has not produced it already. 

    Gilbert, who is the uncle of New England Patriots cornerback Darrelle Revis, distributed materials that cited articles 17 and 69 of the CBA, which spell out how the NFL CBA can be terminated if collusion between multiple clubs involving multiple players is proved before an arbitrator. But Article 17 says any action against the league must be brought within 90 days of “when the player knows or reasonably should have known with the exercise of due diligence that he had a claim” or within 90 days of the first regularly scheduled game in the season in which the violation occurred, whichever is later. 

    Mark Levinstein, a partner with Washington, D.C., law firm Williams & Connolly who has represented athletes in labor and antitrust matters, said that based on the language regarding the 90-day time limit, there is a chance a collusion claim could be barred if players know of it. 

    “If [Gilbert] has the evidence now and he got it from players, there is a significant risk [the arbitrator] will say the players have the information and he should have brought the case 90 days after he learned of it,” Levinstein said. 

    Levinstein, Roberts and other attorneys also believe that if Gilbert were to have compelling evidence of collusion, NFL owners would fight the case, and it could take years to resolve the matter. Gilbert has not said when he would reveal what evidence he has, but many in the industry presume it would be at or around the time of the election for executive director next March. 

    “Given it will take years of litigation to resolve this, he is not helping [players] by saying they will have to wait six months before he will tell them [what the evidence is],” Levinstein said.

    Gilbert, via email, said he did not know whether players and agents had the same information he has. He also said he was not worried about any time limitation quashing a collusion claim. 

    Told of the skepticism of his claims, Gilbert said in reply: “Just so you understand, I don’t bluff. I never bluffed in my career and I have never advised my nephew, Darrelle Revis, to bluff when guiding his career. I assure you that I have done my due diligence on the collusion case. I am not posturing to get elected. Posturing only backfires in the long run.”

    Publicly, Gilbert has said that he has met with about 200 players and 40 agents as part of his campaign. He also said he would use the CBA termination as “the stick” and expanding the NFL regular season from 16 to 18 games as “the carrot” in getting a host of new, better economic terms for players from the NFL. Those items, which are part of his platform, include increasing pay, including minimum salary; lessening franchise tag and transition restrictions; and reducing the amount of time players must spend in the league before they can renegotiate their deals or become free agents.

    All of those things are good for contract agents, and while many agents are in favor of increasing pay and reducing restrictions in player contracts, they had differing opinions on Gilbert himself when asked about him and his platform last week. 

    Levinstein said agents seeking to change the CBA should be careful what they wish for given the recent history of labor deals for the major sports unions, outside of baseball. 

    “There is no reason to think the two sides are going to yield a new deal that is better for the players,” Levinstein said. “All evidence is to the contrary. Each time unions meet with management, they make a slightly worse deal or a much worse deal.”

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