Many National Football League players are celebrating this weekend. Some of them are recipients of massive deals from the prior week, which included a combined amount of roughly $1.7 billion promised to players in the future with $842 million of that guaranteed.
However, the celebrations are slightly tamed for a few by the events that took place in Key Biscayne, Florida during the players’ annual meeting. Tempers flared at that meeting, which was attended by almost 200 active NFL players. It was not because of an issue by and between the players and their union, but instead due to alleged acts of a growing group of certified Contract Advisors who are bargaining for a bigger role with, and even threatening to litigate against, the NFL Players Association.
On March 15, the NFLPA disseminated a memorandum to all Contract Advisors that highlighted discussions between said group of agents and members of the union’s Executive Committee. The meeting included six certified Contract Advisors: Peter Schaffer, Christina Phillips, Jayson Chayut, Steve Caric, Pat Dye Jr., and Adisa Bakari. Approximately sixty players attended the meeting.
The union believed that the agents were interested in meeting to better prepare players for an impending work stoppage at the conclusion of the current collective bargaining agreement. Leadership was apparently very disappointed in what they were told, indicating their belief that the agents were grossly unprepared to discuss their important concerns.
“Accordingly, there was a general feeling among the players that the agents came into the session grossly underestimating our players’ understanding of complex CBA/negotiating issues; many of the agents’ remarks focused on emphasizing their value in the CBA negotiation process, and thus the session was clearly not as productive as it could have been.”NFLPA Memorandum | March 15, 2019
Players say that the discussion and, more importantly the tone used by the agents, left a bad taste in their mouths. While they largely appreciate the roles that agents play in their lives and acknowledge that the services often exceed merely negotiating uniform player contracts with NFL teams, they seem to clearly believe that a growing group led by Schaffer (per the memo, “During the meeting Peter Schaffer asserted that he represents the bulk — if not all — agents”) is going a bit too far in asserting its position with the union.
“The invitation extended to the agents to attend the auxiliary meeting was done in the hope of building better relationships and to provide a constructive conversation as we prepare for the expiration of the CBA. However, both the tone and specific statements by some of the agents showed an overall lack of understanding of the role of the elected player leadership and at times specifically demonstrated a lack of respect for the rights of players to represent themselves if they so choose.”NFLPA Memorandum | March 15, 2019
Two of the members of the NFLPA’s Executive Committee are veterans Russell Okung and Richard Sherman. They have each decided to forego retaining a certified Contract Advisor, and instead represented themselves in their most recent contract negotiations. At least one of them was allegedly attacked for his self-representation by the small group of agents, and it did not go over well with the Executive Committee nor the NFLPA at large.
“There was a portion of the meeting when one agent made an unfortunate remark that many players interpreted as extremely condescending, and during a rather heated exchange about the “roles” of the agents in this business, other agents specifically and personally targeted an Executive Committee member about the contract that he signed. The Player leaderships does not know which agents are members of Mr. Schaffer’s representational group, and it may become important that current players know who these agents are in light of some of the comments and information learned during the meeting (including the existence of a derogatory email extolling agents to publicly attack a current player and his decision to represent himself).”NFLPA Memorandum | March 15, 2019
The above quotation seems to put the agent committee on notice that the NFLPA and its represented players are closely monitoring this new group of agents, led by Schaffer, who met at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis is beginning to charge dues for membership. It is the same group that has retained lawyer Peter Ginsberg, who suggested that the group takes legal action against the NFLPA for being “cut out of the process.”
It is clear that Schaffer does not represent every single certified Contract Advisor. Many agents have stated to me that they want absolutely nothing to do with Schaffer’s group, will not pay any sort of membership dues and, while they agree with some of the positions of the group, they are not in favor of every single pushed policy nor the threat of initiating legal action against the NFLPA.
However, players were pleased with one aspect of the meeting. A resolution to place a cap on the amount of money that agents can recover from any amount advanced to players for pre-draft training costs or payment of any other monies was passed unanimously. Wide receiver Doug Baldwin moved for the resolution to be passed and quarterback Andrew Luck seconded the motion before it was passed.
The resolution has no effect as of yet, since the actual cap on spending has not been set. The NFLPA is currently asking for feedback from agents on this “inducement resolution,” which would seem to allow agents to continue to spend as much money as they desire on pre-draft expenses, but simply be limited in how much of that spend they can thereafter recoup.