Sports Law

Mitchell Robinson’s Former NBA Agent Is Fighting Hard To Keep Poaching Lawsuit Alive

The battle between NBA agents David Lee and Raymond Brothers surrounding New York Knicks big man Mitchell Robinson III is heating up.

Earlier this year, Lee initiated a lawsuit against Brothers based on the allegation that Brothers influenced Robinson to change his representation with the promise of a brand-new pickup truck. Lee has claimed that, with about 3 months to go before the 2018 NBA Draft, Brothers approached Robinson and promised the truck on the condition that Robinson switched agencies. Robinson did terminate his Standard Player Agent Contract (SPAC) with Lee and received a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 pickup truck in close proximity to retaining Brothers.

Robinson was then selected with the 36th overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft and Lee has been fighting, in federal court, for relief after Brothers tortiously interfered with the Lee/Robinson relationship, per Lee.

Brothers fired back at Lee with a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and Lee, on September 1, filed a response in opposition to the motion with some fiery claims included therein.

Lee began his response in opposition by stating that what stands out to him about Brothers’ conduct is that he allegedly solicited and promised a minor (putting emphasis on the word “minor”) that he would buy that minor (Robinson) a new pickup truck if Robinson would fire Lee and sign a contract with Brothers and his agency instead.

“Interested only in securing a commission from a then seventeen-year-old kid with high NBA draft prospects, Defendants stepped all over Plaintiff’s existing contract with Mitchell Robinson and violated a National Basketball Players Association (“NBPA”) regulation expressly prohibiting them from offering a player any monetary inducement to sign a contract with them,” states Lee’s response.

Lee pointed out that, despite Brothers’ argument that only the NBPA can hold him accountable for buying the pickup truck to poach Lee’s client, Lee reached out to the NBPA prior to initiating the lawsuit and the NBPA informed Lee that arbitration was not available for this type of dispute. Thus, Lee had no choice but to file his action in a court of law in order to seek the relief he believes he is due.

It is an interesting case in that Lee is trying to be made whole based on Brothers’ alleged violation of the NBPA Regulations Governing Player Agents that the NBPA currently does not have mandatory jurisdiction to review through its arbitration process. Thus, Lee has claimed that he is an intended third-party beneficiary under those Regulations, which the court should be able to review and interpret in ruling for Lee in this instance.

“When any person becomes a certified player agent with the NBPA, that person enters into a contract with the NBPA. Under that contract, the NBPA agrees to delegate to the agent its statutorily-given authority (as the labor union for NBA players) in exchange for the payment of annual fees and the promise to be bound by and to comply with the NBPA Regulations,” wrote Lee in his response. “And, because certain of the Regulations (as a part of the NBPA-Agent contract) prohibit conduct that would harm other certified agents, the other certified agents are third-party beneficiaries of those prohibitions.”

Ultimately, what Lee wants the court to decide is that Brothers’ outright purchase of a pickup truck for Robinson constitutes a monetary inducement under the NBPA Regulations and that Lee, as an intended third-party beneficiary of the NBPA Regulations, must be made whole when another well-funded agent like Brothers “lures away players with monetary benefits like pickup trucks.”

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.