Headline Sports Law

NFLPA Files Lawsuit Against NFL Coaches Association and Sports Lawyer David Cornwell

Two days ago, the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) filed a lawsuit against the NFL Coaches Association (NFLCA), claiming that (1) the NFLCA owes the NFLPA over $650,324.88 in advanced funds plus licensing royalties, and (2) sports lawyer Wm. David Cornwell was not elected Executive Director pursuant to the NFLCA Constitution. The NFLPA believes that there is a little bit over $300,000.00 in the NFLCA’s bank account, and is asking the court to a pre-judgment attachment of the NFLCA’s assets to secure the payment of the $650,324.88 that the NFLPA says is due.  The NFLPA also wants the court to enjoin the bank, where the NFLCA’s money is held, from disbursing any funds from the NFLCA’s account until the $650,324.88 is paid.  The Complaint, filed by Joseph A. Yablonski on behalf of the NFLPA, is embedded at the bottom of this post.

The NFLPA’s claim that Wm. David Cornwell was not elected Executive Director is rather puzzling.  In fact, on February 22, 2012, the NFLPA released the following statement on its website: “The NFLPA congratulates David Cornwell and the NFL Coaches Association on their selection. We have informed the Association that we will assist them in a smooth transition and provide administrative support, if necessary.”

In response to the filing of the lawsuit by the NFLPA, Cornwell has stated, “Instead of working with the NFL on retirement benefits,uniform insurance, and other important issues for NFL coaches, now we have to incur real debtto deal with De Smith and the NFLPA. De has not done anything for NFL coaches and there is no support for a continued association with the NFLPA. I think the lawsuit and the alleged debt is a smoke screen to prevent the NFLCA from breaking away from the NFLPA. I have seen no evidence that the NFLPA sought to collect this alleged debt when they thought De controlled the Coaches Association. First with the NFLPA filing a amicus brief in the name of the NFLCA in the Eighth Circuit during the NFLPA’s labor challenge and now with this lawsuit, this is the second time that De has asked us to ignore that the players we coach are acting against our interests through their union.”

There was bad blood between Cornwell and Smith prior to the new lawsuit.  At the end of January 2012, Cornwell sent a memorandum to all NFLPA Certified Contract Advisors regarding Cornwell’s lack of praise for the quality of the leadership in the NFLPA, particularly pointing his finger at NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith.  In the Conclusion section of Cornwell’s memo, he wrote, “Despite my greatest hopes, my personal experience reveals that De’s vision in 2008 was little more than an inside Washington political campaign — high on style, low on substance. De’s grandiose pronouncments did not translate into meaningful progress in the business of playing football. Rather than  advancing the partnership between players and team owners, the new 10 year CBA relegated NFL players’ status to mere employees.”  Cornwell was “stunned at what the NFLPA has become under De’s leadership.”  And now he is stunned by the lawsuit that Smith’s organization filed against him and the organization he represents.


By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.