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Volume 24 No. 158

Labor and Agents

One of Roc Nation Sports Owner Jay Z's "greatest strengths as an agent is his willingness to publicly subjugate his celebrity to avoid overshadowing his clients," according to a profile by Joe Lemire in RHAPSODY MAGAZINE. At Mariners 2B Robinson Cano's introductory press conference in December, Jay Z refused to be interviewed, telling the media, "Today isn't about me. It's about him." But another "lure of Jay Z as an agent" is that he is a "celebrity himself, a peer to his clients rather than merely a hired associate." He also "understands the arduousness of traveling from city to city for months on end to perform, as well as the single-mindedness necessary to succeed at one's craft under unceasing public scrutiny." His clients also "seem to consider him even more than a peer," as it has become "a ritual of sorts for players to announce their partnership ... by posing for a photo with Jay Z and posting it to Instagram." But other sports agents are "less than glowing about their new rival," including MLB agent Scott Boras, who has been "quick to discount Jay Z as a formidable foe." Kirmser Ponturo Group Partner Tony Ponturo, who "speaks well of Jay Z's business acumen, emphasizes the role of CAA in Roc Nation Sports." He said, "From my standpoint, he's well-tucked into the CAA umbrella. I don't mean this critically, but he's not doing this on his own. He's a brand inside the CAA machine." Lemire notes two of Roc Nation Sports' nine clients "were signed as amateurs." This, along with the "apparent attempt and failure" of Roc Nation to sign Texans DE Jadeveon Clowney and Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater, would "seem to suggest that Jay Z's appeal lies mainly with established players hoping his clout with a multitude of brands offers a better chance for post-playing career endorsements" (RHAPSODY MAGAZINE, 7/'14 issue).

Attorneys for Redskins WR DeSean Jackson twice in the last month sent letters to NFLPA Exec Dir DeMaurice Smith asking if members of his staff, in particular in-house counsel Mark Levin, had told agent Jason Rosenhaus that there were exceptions to the union’s rule that agents could not give financial inducements to players to sign with them. Jackson is appealing an arbitrator’s ruling that he owes Drew Rosenhaus, Jason’s brother and partner, $516,000. Jackson alleges the money was a loan from his first contract that Rosenhaus agreed to forgive if the player re-signed. When Jackson did not re-sign, Rosenhaus called in the loan. Jackson terms the loan illegal under the union rule. However, arbitrator Roger Kaplan, relying in part on testimony from Jason Rosenhaus that the union rule allowed inducements that were not “improper,” ruled against Jackson. Jason Rosenhaus testified, according to a transcript of the Sept. 24 hearing before Kaplan, that “Mark Levin and others at the NFLPA have told me that this -- Mark Levin told me that -- and has told me -- and I've been told by more than one person throughout and in recent years, in the past few years -- that you are allowed to give a rookie or a veteran, whether it's a stipend for housing, for training. Give him a marking advance [sic], whatever is negotiated, so long as you were respectful of Rule 3(B) 21(A).” That rule disallows payments to players by agents for signing.

DETAILING JACKSON'S CASE: In a letter dated June 4, William Quinn, Jackson’s attorney, wrote to Smith, “We therefore ask that the NFLPA either confirm or deny the accuracy of the Rosenhaus’ representations to Mr. Kaplan about the NFLPA’s position on inducements given by Contract Advisors in connection with a player’s decision whether to use his or her services.” Having received no reply, Quinn in a letter dated July 10 goes further, pointing out that the Jackson appeal “asserts that Drew Rosenhaus has undue influence over the NFLPA (and, by extension, Mr. Kaplan) as evidenced by, among other things, the NFLPA’s deliberate refusal to act on abundant compelling evidence that Mr. Rosenhaus routinely flouts his obligations under the NFLPA Regulations, including the anti-inducement prohibition.” The letters and transcript before Kaplan were attached to a court brief Jackson’s attorneys filed yesterday. Quinn concludes the July 10 letter by writing he will take a failure to reply as evidence that the testimony that the NFLPA has exceptions to the inducement rule is false. The NFLPA, which is not a party to the case, could not immediately be reached for comment.

"SCANDALOUS" CLAIMS: Rosenhaus in a previous brief has slammed Jackson’s arguments as “scandalous” and asked the court to sanction the player. Rosenhaus brought the lawsuit in California federal court seeking to enforce the Kaplan decision. Jackson than countersued Rosenhaus. The agent rule prohibits providing or offering money "or any other thing of value to any player prospective player to induce or encourage that player to utilize his/her services.” Kaplan found that there is an exception if the inducement is not considered improper, which he deemed the Rosenhaus loan not to be.