Remember the lawsuit that Nerlens Noel filed against Rich Paul and Klutch Sports Group a little over a year ago? You know, the one where Noel claimed that Paul interfered with his preexisting relationship with agent Happy Walters, promised Noel that he was a “$100 million man,” told Noel not to accept a $70 million offer from the Dallas Mavericks, and only focused on his marquee clients?
Well, the case is still going on. It is technically closed, but only because it was shifted, on September 9, from federal court to arbitration. The judge was very thorough in her explanation for why it was kicked out of court.
The decision notes that, under the Federal Arbitration Act, there exists a strong policy favoring arbitration before litigation. The judge looked at the arbitration clause in the Standard Player Agent Contract (SPAC) between Noel and Paul, which states,
Arbitration: Resolution of All Disputes Arising Out of This Agreement
Any and all disputes between the Player and the Agent involving the meaning, interpretation, application, or enforcement of this Agreement or the obligations of the parties under this Agreement shall be resolved exclusively through the Arbitration procedure set forth in Section 5 of the NBPA Regulations Governing Player Agents. As provided in Section 5(D) of those Regulations, if any arbitration hearing takes place, the NBPA may participate and present, by testimony or otherwise, any evidence relevant to the dispute. Because of the uniquely internal nature of any such dispute that may arise under this Agreement, the Player and the Agent agree that the arbitrator’s award shall constitute a final and binding resolution of the dispute and neither party will seek judicial review on any ground.
The Court found that Noel’s claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and breach of the duties of good faith and fair dealing each fall within the scope of the SPAC’s arbitration clause. It is a decision that strengthens the National Basketball Players Association’s role when it comes to adjudicating disputes between players and agents.