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Volume 21 No. 2

Labor and Agents

NFL Players Inc.’s new long-term, exclusive deal with Panini America will pay the marketing and licensing arm of the NFL Players Association more money per year than deals with multiple trading card companies have in the past, NFLPI President Keith Gordon said last week. 

The NFLPI announced its exclusive pact with Panini America late last month; the deal begins in 2016. Panini America and The Topps Co. are in the third year of a four-year deal with the NFLPI, which allows group licensing rights, and that agreement ends after the 2015 NFL season. 

Panini America now shares NFLPI trading card rights with The Topps Co.

Panini and Topps paid the NFLPI $24.998 million for the NFLPA’s fiscal year ended Feb. 28, 2014, according to the union’s annual report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. Those amounts include $13.907 million from Panini and $11.028 million from Topps in licensing royalties, player marketing and sponsorship, according to the report. 

“All three categories are dramatically increased under an exclusive [deal],” said Gordon, though he would not reveal by how much. He also said the new Panini deal was longer than the four-year deal NFLPI has with Topps and Panini but would not say by how much. 

> RODGERS SEEKS CERTIFICATION: Mark Rodgers, an MLB player agent and longtime marketing agent to Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, took the NFLPA’s annual exam last week, one of about 260 applicants who did so. 

There has been speculation in the agent community for months that Rodgers might take the test and try to represent Wilson in his NFL contract negotiations. Rodgers declined to comment when asked about his intentions for taking the test.

Rodgers has not been certified to represent NFL players in contract work for a few years, but he had been certified by the NFLPA in the past. In addition to being Wilson’s marketing agent, Rodgers advised Wilson on his baseball career after the player was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles and out of college by the Colorado Rockies.

Bus Cook, Wilson’s contract agent, said he has a good working relationship with Rodgers, but he was not aware that Rodgers had taken the test to become an NFL agent. 

Wilson was drafted by the Seahawks in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft and is scheduled to make about $662,000 this season as part of the deal he signed under the rookie pay system that draws from the 2011 NFL collective-bargaining agreement. 

With his early on-field success, some have wondered if Wilson is one of the most underpaid pro athletes in America because of that rookie pay system.

“Of course he is,” said Cook, when asked if Wilson was underpaid. “He just won a Super Bowl.” 

Cook noted that the Seahawks can renegotiate an extension with Wilson after the 2014 regular season under terms of the CBA. 

> IN PRISON: Former NFL agent Stephen Colson was sentenced to five years in federal prison and ordered to pay $8.494 million in restitution last month after pleading guilty in federal court earlier this year in a scheme to defraud two banks and the U.S. Bankruptcy Court. 

Colson, former owner of Prestige Sports Management, was an NFL agent from 2001 until last year, when he failed to pay his NFLPA certification fees. He had represented a number of players over the years, including Cincinnati offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth. Whitworth fired Colson and signed with SportsTrust Advisors in 2011. 

Colson was serving his sentence in the federal prison camp on Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala., last week. The charges he pleaded guilty to did not appear to involve NFL players. His defense attorney did not return a phone call for comment. 

> CAA SIGNS MATHIEU: CAA Sports has signed Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu. CAA Sports’ Tom Condon will represent him. Mathieu formerly was represented by Galaxy Sports Advisors.

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