Sports Law

Nerlens Noel’s Case Against Rich Paul Pushed To Arbitration

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.

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.