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Volume 20 No. 42

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
Maxx Sports & Entertainment has signed veteran NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb for broadcast work and is close to agreeing to a network deal for the longtime Philadelphia Eagles star.

“We are on the cusp of something, but I can’t say what network it is with,” said Mark Lepselter, founder and president of New York-based Maxx. “We are exploring broadcast opportunities and we are confident that Donovan will have opportunities in the broadcasting arena.”

A 13-year NFL veteran, McNabb played for Minnesota last year before being released midseason. Lepselter declined to comment on any prospects of McNabb returning to the field this year.

McNabb did some on-camera work for ESPN at Super Bowl XLIII in Tampa in 2009.
McNabb is represented on the field by agent Fletcher Smith. Lepselter said he met McNabb through Smith.

McNabb previously has done on-air work in guest stints with ESPN and Comcast SportsNet.

“The networks always seem to gravitate first to guys who played the quarterback position,” Lepselter said. “I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Donovan has as unique a perspective as anyone who has played that position.”

Maxx represents more than 40 sports broadcasters and other current and former athletes for off-the-field work, including Rodney Harrison, Jeremy Roenick and Tiki Barber. Lepselter recently negotiated a deal for former St. Louis Rams coach Mike Martz as an NFL game analyst with Fox Sports and a deal for former NFL wide receiver (and Indiana University quarterback) Antwaan Randle El to join the Big Ten Network as a studio host.

LMM SAYS INVESTOR KNEW ABOUT LOANS: A private equity firm that bought a minority stake in the NFL player rep agency owned by Ethan Lock, Eric Metz and Vance Malinovic knew about and approved a $350,000 loan to Dallas Cowboys tackle Tyron Smith as well as loans and payments to others, Metz said last week.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based agency, now operating as LMM Sports Management, represents about 50 NFL players. It is engaged in a legal battle with the equity firm, Your Source Pacific Fund (YSP), and its subsidiary Your Source Financial regarding the deal, in which YSP bought 40 percent of the agency.

LMM has asked a court to be able to dissolve itself and for $900,000 in damages, alleging YSP reneged on a deal to pay for the continuing expenses of the agency. YSP contends that the three agency partners violated an operating agreement by engaging in a number of activities that were not authorized by the joint executive committee overseeing the agency. These activities, YSP contends, include the agency making the $350,000 loan to Smith as well as a $33,900 loan to Kansas City Chiefs offensive guard Jon Asamoah and a $50,000 payment to longtime quarterbacks coach Bob Johnson.

“Your Source, as a minority partner, not only authorized the loan agreement [with Smith], they actually drafted the loan agreement themselves and requested in writing that any communication about the loan agreement also be sent to the Your Source attorney,” Metz said. He said the same was the case with the loan to Asamoah.

As for Johnson’s case, Metz said, “Once again, documentation shows that Your Source actually drafted this agreement.”

James Ryan, attorney for the Your Source entities, declined to comment on Metz’s statements. “We are just going to litigate it in court,” he said.

Both Smith and Asamoah are represented by LMM. Johnson said he has been paid to train quarterback clients for LMM but does not know about any approvals related to that payment.

TLA SIGNS JOHNSON FOR MARKETING: The Legacy Agency has signed Brooklyn Nets coach Avery Johnson for off-the-court endeavors, including endorsements and appearances. TLA partner and marketing agent Russ Spielman will represent him. Johnson continues to be represented on the court by his longtime agent, Tony Dutt.

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

Before the end of the NFL lockout 13 months ago, many insiders worried that the time-consuming process of certifying a class of players as part of the antitrust case that had been filed against the league could delay the start of the season. In the end, no class was certified to match what occurred with the antitrust case of 20 years earlier and the creation of the White class, named after late defensive end Reggie White.

As it turns out, the NFL Players Association was concerned, according to newly released court documents, how that lack of class standing might be perceived down the line. In the legal settlement that ended the 2011 Brady v. NFL antitrust case and the associated lockout, the NFL promised not to use the lack of a class certification against the players if they were ever in court under similar circumstances again.

The details came to light with the recent public release of the legal settlement, an agreement that was attached as an exhibit in a filing by the union last month as part of the collusion case on which federal judge David Doty will hear arguments this week.

At issue is how the NFL perhaps could have questioned any future antitrust lawsuit because this most recent one, named after New England quarterback Tom Brady among other plaintiffs, never led to a class certification.

“The NFL … agrees that, in any future legal proceeding concerning any potential future disclaimer by the NFLPA of its union status, the NFL … may not use or refer to the fact that the Brady action was resolved by a non-class settlement, to support any argument that the non-statutory labor exemption or other defense applies to a lockout,” the settlement states.

The nonstatutory labor exemption refers to the fact that leagues such as the NFL can engage in acts, such as the draft or free agency restrictions, that normally would be considered collusive but are not in a collective-bargaining relationship. The league also largely successfully argued in court last year the exemption applied to a lockout even if the union had disbanded, as the NFLPA had done in order to bring the lawsuit.

So, in essence, the agreement notes that while the NFL can invoke the labor exemption in the event of a future disclaimer and lockout, it may not use the lack of a class certification in Brady to challenge the union’s disbandment or any potential antitrust lawsuit.

At least one sports law expert said he was puzzled by the language.

“[What] I don’t understand is why the NFL’s argument that the union’s disclaimer is ineffective in lifting the labor exemption defense would be any stronger because the Brady settlement was a non-class-action settlement instead of a class-action settlement,” said Gary Roberts, a former NFL outside counsel and Indiana University law professor.

It’s all quite theoretical at the moment: The NFL is entering the second season of a 10-year CBA with no opt-out provision, meaning coverage until at least 2021.