I am not sure how this originally got past my radar, but over the weekend, I read for the first time that Aaron Goodwin plans to file a formal complaint (if he has not already), with the NBA Players Association, against Arn Tellem. The complaint will be based on Al Horford’s switch from Goodwin to Tellem and Wasserman Media Group (WMG) mere days prior to Horford being able to discuss a contract extension with the Atlanta Hawks.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a player changing his agent; agent/player agreements are terminable at will. But as has been discussed at length on Sports Agent Blog, there is a remedy in tort law if someone intentionally interferes with your contractual relations with your client. Goodwin would have to prove that Tellem and/or anyone under his control at WMG had knowledge of Horford’s relationship with Goodwin (easy) and that they caused the interference. Goodwin’s case would be aided if he can prove that someone at WMG had a bad motive in the recruitment of Horford.
In the context of professional basketball, interference with contractual relations, as a viable claim, has been largely a myth. That is until an arbitrator awarded Keith Glass $40,000 to be paid by Andy Miller. When I covered that award, I wrote the following,
Some in the industry would call it “competition”, and claim that this type of ruling could create a slippery slope where even ethical recruiting practices are punished with the levying of damages. The worry is that this type of decision might open the floodgates for every disgruntled agent who has ever lost a player. No one wants to chill the open market of agents and players who switch agents for a variety of proper reasons. Others are extremely happy that justice might finally be served on those who ignore rules, regulations, and laws.
Will this decision set a precedent, or will it be a blip in the standard unregulated practice of agents stealing clients from one another?
If Goodwin wins in his fight against Tellem, are the floodgates officially opened? If Goodwin has a solid claim, then a ruling in his favor would be a good thing, but at least at this point, there must be some concern that the slippery slope is beginning to form. I understand Goodwin’s pain, though. LeBron James, Dwight Howard, and Al Horford are all former clients. Representing those three players, alone, throughout their careers would be enough for almost any man to retire and live a very happy life.