SBJ/August 7-13, 2017/Labor and Agents

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  • Lineman withdraws unfair labor charges as lawsuit progresses

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    hiladelphia Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson has withdrawn charges of unfair labor practices against the NFL and the NFL Players Association, but his lawsuit against the union and the league is proceeding in New York federal court.

    Johnson, who served a 10-month suspension for violations of the NFL’s performance-enhancing substances policy last season, filed the unfair labor practices charge against the NFL Management Council and the NFLPA in November.

    “Johnson widely publicized his November 2016 filing of unfair labor practice charges against the NFLPA and NFLMC with the National Labor Relations Board, but recently withdrew those charges following the NLRB’s investigation,” the NFLPA said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan late last month. The five-page letter was jointly submitted by attorneys from the NFL, NFLPA and Johnson, and gave each party’s position in the case.

    The NFL, NFLPA and Johnson either did not comment or did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

    Johnson first filed the lawsuit against the NFL and NFLPA in federal court in Akron, Ohio, in January. Both the league and the union have sought to move the matter to New York federal court and to dismiss the lawsuit.

    Lane Johnson’s lawsuit has been moved to federal court in N.Y.
    GETTY IMAGES
    Earlier this month, Sara Lioi, U.S. district judge for the Northern District of Ohio, granted the NFL’s and NFLPA’s motions to transfer the venue, which put the case before Sullivan, but denied their motions to dismiss the case.

    The case alleges 11 causes of action involving the appeal and arbitration that led to Johnson’s suspension, including that the arbitrator, James Carter, worked for a law firm, Wilmer Hale, which did substantial legal work for the NFL and that Carter did not disclose this to Johnson.

    Wilmer Hale formerly employed Robert Mueller, who is now special counsel for the U.S. investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The NFL employed Mueller, a former FBI director, in 2014 to investigate the league’s handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence episode. Mueller issued a report on that in January 2015.

    The NFLPA, however, contends, “This action constitutes Johnson’s campaign to blame his own union (among others) for a neutral arbitrator denying Johnson’s appeal from a 10-game suspension for his second violation of the Policy. But Johnson has no one to blame other than himself.”

    The NFL, in the letter, said, “The NFL Defendants maintain that Johnson’s claims regarding the arbitrator’s authority and alleged bias are meritless and have been waived.”

    The letter also revealed that on the urging of Lioi, Johnson made a settlement demand, which the NFLPA rejected. “The NFL Defendants do not believe this is an appropriate case for settlement,” the letter states.

    If there is a trial in the case, it will take three to five days, the NFLPA and Johnson said, in the letter.

    > CAA SIGNS BUTCH JONES: CAA Sports has signed University of Tennessee football coach Butch Jones for representation. Jimmy Sexton, CAA Sports co-head of football, will represent Jones. He was formerly represented by Athletes First.

    > ALPHA SIGNS HELLEBUYCK: Alpha Hockey has signed Winnipeg Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck for representation. Alpha Hockey founder Ray Petkau is representing him. He was formerly represented by Forward Hockey.

    > HOGAN SELECTS SSG: Patriots wide receiver Chris Hogan has signed with Select Sports Group. SSG agents Erik Burkhardt and Andy Ross will represent him. He was formerly represented by Arthur Weiss.

    > DEC SIGNS HAYE: DEC Management has signed Chicago Bears defensive tackle Jaye Howard. DEC founder David Canter will represent him. He was formerly represented by Rosenhaus Sports Representation.


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


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