Monday, September 26, 2011

In the NFL, It Gets Better; I Promise.

Pete Olsen, Ohio State University Moritz College of Law 3L Student, and author of the blog "Wide Rights" has uncovered quite a find in the new NFL collective bargaining agreement.  The NFL is the first professional sports league to protect players from any sexual orientation related discrimination (assist PrawfsBlawg). 
As Prawfsblawg (emphasis added by author) points out, the language from the 2006 CBA Article VII, Player Security, reads :
Section 1. No Discrimination: There will be no discrimination in any form against any player by the Management Council, any Club or by the NFLPA because of race, religion, national origin or activity or lack of activity on behalf of the NFLPA.
The new language in the 2011 CBA, now moved to Article 49, reads:

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Professional Athletes' Workers' Compensation? NOT IN MY HOUSE (California)!

One of the little discussed, but increasingly important NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) issue in professional sports law is matters relating to professional athletes' workers' compensation claims. A disagreement has arose because numerous professional athletes have decided to choose California as the jurisdiction in which to file their workers' compensation claims, even if he had never played a game for a California home-team due to the belief that when it comes to Workers' Compensation Claims, California has plaintiff favored policies when it comes to work injuries that result from playing professional sports. This strategy was employed  much to the chagrin of the players' out-of-state employer who think that their players (employees) should be required to file their workers' compensation claims in the employers' home-state and have begun including contract provisions that preclude the players from bringing such injury related claims under California law.

However, even though this is an emerging and important issue within professional sports, the NFLPA and Owners punted on this issue, and decided to ratify the CBA and commence the football season  with this issue unresolved.  Nonetheless, both sides agreed to continue to negotiate in good faith regarding these emerging workers' compensation issues.  CBA Article 41 § (5)-(6) states that a joint committee will be formed to negotiate a possible California Workers' Compensation Alternative Dispute Resolution program on a trial basis.  This was agreed to with the big caveat that both sides retain their respective positions with respect to all current pending litigation. An example of such pending litigation was the case of the Chicago Bears versus three of their former players in The Chicago Bears Football Club Inc., et al. v. Michael Haynes, et al. No. 11 C 2668.  In her decision, U.S.  District Judge Elaine Bucklo affirmed an arbitrator's decision that the former Bears players were required to file their workers' compensation claims with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission instead of in California because their player contracts' required them to.

But why would a Chicago Bear  file his workers' compensation claim in California anyways?  For that answer, allow me to turn over the floor to Attorney Greg Grinberg; a Northern California Workers' Compensation Attorney who writes the blog wcdefenseca, a blog dedicated to California Workers' Compensation issues. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Billy Hunter: "The Hunted" LP

The anguish was palpable after the latest NBA labor talks broke down after two long days of talks with little to no progress on a new collective bargaining agreement and a threat that training camps will not open on time.

The players' camp seems to be in disarray. There have been reports that some agents, taking the role as puppet-masters, are attempting to pull their players' strings in forcing the NBPA to decertify their union. Bill Duffy, Arn Tellem, Mark Bartlestein, Jeff Schwartz and Dan Fegan are the starting 5 on Team Agent, who also represent roughly one-third of the Union's players. They believe that the owners have most of the leverage and are ready to take it to the hole and blow up the union as a way to regain some of the power in the CBA negotiations, but union head Billy Hunter has rebuffed their proposal. In order for the Union to vote on the decertification issue, all Team Agent would have to do is convince all the players they represent, which totals roughly 30% of the Union members, to sign a petition to bring the issue to a vote.

NBPA President Derek Fisher rebuked Team Agents' request, and even called their motives into question. One only has to go back to the last NBA Lockout where the NBPA Executive Committee was accused of being run by super agent David Falk trying to protect his elite clients, as 10 out of 19 players on the Executive Committee were Falk clients including Union President Patrick Ewing, and fellow superstars Alonzo Mourning, Juwan Howard, and Dikembe Mutombo. This time around around, and probably much to Team Agent's chagrin, the NBPA executive committee is comprised of mostly role players and veterans (aside from star guard Chris Paul), which is evident by the leadership of veteran role player President Derek Fisher. Fisher and Hunter met with a group of about 40 players to discuss the progress or lack of progress in their negotiations with the owners and special guest presenter NFLPA Head DeMaurice Smith spoke about the decertification process as it was used for the NFLPA's specific needs. Many believe that Fisher is not ready to seriously consider decertification at this juncture as he believes that their NLRB complaint could be sufficient to shift the momentum. The Union appeared to leave the meeting an united front.

Subsequently, Fisher than sent an e-mail out to other members of the Union stating that the dysfunction was not among the players, but an internal divide within the Owners circle. After hearing these statements, Commissioner David Stern denied Fisher's allegations saying that the "vast majority" of the owners favor a hard salary cap and that the owner's negotiating committee has the authority to negotiate on all matters.

At their meeting, the owner's ratified a five year deal with NBA referees. The only question is how many games or if there will be a season to officiate at; Union Head Billy Hunter cautioned that the players should be ready to lose at least half a season at this time. Whether that is a threat or happens will be decided in the upcoming days. Derek Fisher has proven that he not only can lead teams to championship but can also unite all the NBA player's diverse interests. However, Billy Hunter needs to share some of the burden or it may not be too long that he ends up much like Hunter, Jan Levinson-Gould's assistant from NBC's "The Office," and let go to focus on his coffeehouse music tour.