NFL agent Todd France of Creative Artists Agency prevailed against a rival agent Jason Bernstein through the NFL Players Association’s arbitration process. Typically, these decisions are confidential and outside the purview of the general public. However, this case has now been made public by virtue of a federal court filing that seeks to have a court confirm the arbitration award.
The filing, made in a Virginia federal court, is essentially France asking the court to confirm that he does not owe any of the $2.3 million that Bernstein sought in the underlying arbitration.
“Via the award, the arbitrator entered a reasoned decision in favor of France and against Bernstein, and which, among other things, completely exonerated France of any of the misconduct or regulatory violations alleged by Bernstein in his grievance,” states the petition to confirm the arbitration award.
The dispute surrounded Bernstein’s allegation that France interfered with Bernstein’s representation of NFL wide receiver Kenny Golladay and whether France improperly provided or offered money or any other thing of value to Golladay to induce or encourage him to switch to France as his agent of record. The alleged improper inducement revolved around Golladay being compensated for a private autograph signing of sports memorabilia, which was also the subject of a separate case brought by Bernstein.
The testimony presented at the arbitration hearing was that Golladay approached France at a charity event, asked if France was an agent at CAA and asked France for his phone number, indicating that he intended to change agents. Golladay decided to terminate his business relationship with Bernstein and hire France in December 2018. The termination actually occurred in January 2019.
With regard to the improper inducement claim, France testified that he did not arrange the signing event, he did not attend the event, he was unaware of the event when it actually took place and never communicated with Golladay about the event, nor did he earn any compensation related to the event.
Because Bernstein brought the case, he was stuck with the burden of proof in the matter. The arbitrator found that Bernstein failed to sustain his burden to prove that France initiated communication with Golladay as opposed to vice versa. Additionally, it was determined that no evidence could prove that France was in any way involved with the private autograph signing that served as the foundation for Bernstein’s claim that an improper inducement was provided to pry Golladay away from him.
Perhaps the arbitrator’s opinion would have been different had important testimony been provided in support of Bernstein’s claims. However, per the order, many witnesses whom Bernstein subpoenaed simply failed to show for the hearing.