Sports Law Blog
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Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Sports Agent Finds Himself Caught Between A Rock and A Hard Place
Liz Mullen of Street & Smith's Sports Business Journal does an excellent job of reporting on the latest labor and agent news -- especially when it comes to digging up the dirt in the sports agent business. In her column this week, "NFLPA hasn't given up on disciplining Dunn," she discusses the current situation of agent David Dunn, who was suspended by the NFLPA in 2003 for two years based upon testimony given by NFL players at a trial in 2002 in which a jury found that Dunn unfairly competed against his former partner, Leigh Steinberg. Dunn then filed for personal Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which put a hold on all administrative actions against him, including the NFLPA two-year suspension. Last spring, the jury verdict was reversed on appeal, but the NFLPA still wants to suspend or decertify Dunn because the reversal was based upon technicalities, including jury instruction errors.
At the 2002 trial, there was testimony from an NFL player that Dunn had solicited him to fire Steinberg and join Dunn at Dunn’s new agency, Athletes First, which is a blatant violation of the NFLPA agent regulations. Also, a former NFL player testified: 1) that Athletes First never told him that Steinberg had filed a grievance over fees the former player owed Steinberg; and 2) that he did not know that Athletes First had answered the grievance on his behalf, denying he owed the fees.
Next month, the NFLPA will argue in federal court that Dunn’s certification should not be subject to bankruptcy protection. According to NFLPA counsel Lisa Fenning,
“If we win, it means a ruling by the district court that his [NFLPA
Mullen notes that even if the NFLPA loses its motion, Dunn may still be forced out of bankruptcy protection and into the union’s disciplinary procedures because he has a February 15 deadline to propose a financial reorganization plan and an April deadline to confirm that plan.
Now, you might think that a bankrupt agent that is on the verge of being heavily sanctioned (even decertified) for NFLPA rule violations would have some difficulty obtaining clients? Apparently not. Dunn currently represents about eight of this year’s draft prospects, and about 50 NFL players, including Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer. And Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart reportedly gave strong consideration to having Dunn represent them.
More to come from me later this week on the sports agent business....