Page 1       TOP OF DOC
31–311 PDF








DECEMBER 7, 2006

Serial No. 109–156

Printed for the use of the Committee on the Judiciary
 Page 2       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

Available via the World Wide Web: http://judiciary.house.gov


F. JAMES SENSENBRENNER, Jr., Wisconsin, Chairman
HENRY J. HYDE, Illinois
HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
BOB INGLIS, South Carolina
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin
DARRELL ISSA, California
 Page 3       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

JOHN CONYERS, Jr., Michigan
HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
ZOE LOFGREN, California
MARTIN T. MEEHAN, Massachusetts
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts
ADAM B. SCHIFF, California
LINDA T. SÁNCHEZ, California

PHILIP G. KIKO, Chief of Staff-General Counsel
PERRY H. APELBAUM, Minority Chief Counsel

 Page 4       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law

CHRIS CANNON, Utah Chairman

HOWARD COBLE, North Carolina
MARK GREEN, Wisconsin

MELVIN L. WATT, North Carolina
WILLIAM D. DELAHUNT, Massachusetts

MIKE LENN, Full Committee Counsel
STEPHANIE MOORE, Minority Counsel


 Page 5       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
DECEMBER 7, 2006

    The Honorable Chris Cannon, a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law

    The Honorable Howard Coble, a Representative in Congress from the State of North Carolina, and Member, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law


Professor Richard Karcher, Director, Center for Law and Sports, Florida Coastal School of Law
Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

Mr. LaVar Arrington, Linebacker, New York Giants
Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

Mr. Richard Berthelsen, General Counsel, National Football League Players Association
Oral Testimony
Prepared Statement

Larry Friedman, Esquire, Managing Director, Friedman & Feiger, LLP, Dallas, TX
Oral Testimony
 Page 6       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
Prepared Statement


    Prepared Statement of the Honorable Chris Cannon, a Representative in Congress from the State of Utah, and Chairman, Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law


Material Submitted for the Hearing Record

    Prepared Statement of the Honorable Sheila Jackson Lee, a Representative in Congress from the State of Texas, and Member, Committee on the Judiciary

    Prepared Statement of Carl Poston

    Letter submitted by the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA)

    Letter submitted by the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA)

    Item entitled, ''NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors,''Letter submitted by Richard Berthelsen, General Counsel, National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), Washington, DC

 Page 7       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Letter submitted by Bernard Parrish



House of Representatives,
Subcommittee on Commercial
and Administrative Law,
Committee on the Judiciary,
Washington, DC.

    The Subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:45 a.m., in Room 2237, Rayburn House Office Building, the Honorable Chris Cannon (Chairman of the Subcommittee) presiding.

    Mr. CANNON. Given the constraints on time, I would like to call this hearing to order, and I intend to submit my opening statement for the record. I hope you will forgive me for that but I think all the witnesses know what we are doing here.

    So I would like to yield to Mr. Coble for 5 minutes and then we will come back, and I will introduce the witnesses and we will begin the testimony.

    Mr. Coble.

 Page 8       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    [The prepared statement of Mr. Cannon follows:]


    I would like to begin with a brief explanation of the jurisdictional underpinnings of this hearing.

    As many of you know, the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law has jurisdiction over title 9 of the United States Code, which deals with arbitration. That title was adopted nearly 60 years ago in an effort to alleviate pressure on the federal courts by encouraging parties to arbitrate and settle differences before they reached the stage of active litigation.

    By facilitating settlements through arbitration, title 9 provides a strong presumption that courts will enforce determinations arrived at under this process.

    Various aspects of title 9 have been considered by the Subcommittee over the years. During the 106th Congress, the Subcommittee considered the ''Fairness and Voluntary Arbitration Act,'' legislation dealing with the arbitration procedure utilized to resolve disputes between automobile manufacturers and their sales franchisees. The principal item of contention was that franchisees asserted that they were forced into contracts of adhesion that required them to agree to arbitrators who, because of their relationship to the manufacturers, were not perceived to be neutral.

 Page 9       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Ultimately, legislation was passed by the 107th Congress and signed into law. This measure provides a more even playing field between the manufacturers and the franchisees in resolving disputes through arbitration.

    The Subcommittee has on other occasions exercised its jurisdiction in this area. Also during the 106th Congress, the Subcommittee conducted an oversight hearing entitled on the fundamental relationship between franchisees and franchisors and whether there was any need for more regulation. No further action was taken by the Subcommittee with regard to that issue.

    With respect to today's hearing, I approach this issue with a completely open mind. I also want to note that it is not my intention that this hearing be construed to influence any pending arbitration or litigation. Rather, my intention is to objectively consider such issues as whether the arbitration procedures employed by the National Football League Players Association adequately protect the rights of all interested parties and whether these procedures comport with the intent underlying the Federal Arbitration Act.

    Mr. COBLE. Mr. Chairman, I thank you for that and I will not take—Marty, I won't take as long as it takes to replay a play on the NFL. I will be very brief, Mr. Chairman.

    At one time professional players had little, if any, ability to negotiate their salaries and contracts and now they benefit from the ability to unionize and negotiate the collective bargaining agreements which are supposed to serve the best interest of all involved.

    While I was not immediately concerned when I learned there were potential problems with the National Football League Players Association arbitration process, a close friend of mine thought very differently about the matter. He recently passed and I am saddened that he cannot be with us today to examine what will be forthcoming at today's hearing.
 Page 10       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    His name, Mr. Chairman, was known to many of us. His name was Jerris Leonard, a distinguished private attorney, elected to the Wisconsin Senate, where he served as the Senate leader and he then joined the Nixon administration to work in the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Throughout Jerris' legal practice and public service he spent a career furthering and promoting civil rights and speaking out against injustice.

    When Jerris said to me, on several times, that a flawed process is more harmful than no process at all, I think he was correct about that. Now, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, I have not drawn a conclusion prior to today's hearing, but I want all the members of our panel to know that if this process is indeed flawed it is a serious problem because it undermines all that has been done to protect the rights of professional football players, which should be no different than any other citizen or profession.

    Mr. Chairman, I thank you for your patience and efforts in conducting today's hearing. As you pointed out, the timing couldn't be any worse in the waning hours of this session, but I thank you for that, Mr. Chairman, and I yield back.

    Mr. CANNON. I thank the gentleman. I am hoping there is something historic that comes out of this. This is great.

    For the record, I would like to ask unanimous consent that it be admitted into the record, a statement by Ms. Jackson Lee and a statement by Carl Poston with some addenda. Without objection, so ordered.

 Page 11       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    [The information referred to can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. CANNON. We would also like to ask unanimous consent that Ms. Jackson Lee and Mr. Meehan be allowed to join us at the dais and be allowed to ask questions. Without objection, so ordered.

    Without objection, all Members may place their statements in the record at this point. Hearing no objection, so ordered.

    Without objection, the Chair will be authorized to declare recesses at this hearing at any point. Hearing no objection, so ordered.

    I ask unanimous consent that Members have 5 calendar days to submit written statements for inclusion in today's hearing record. Hearing no objection, so ordered.

    Our first witness is Dr. Richard Karcher. He is the Director of the Center for Law and Sports at the Florida Coastal School of Law. Professor Karcher obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, Dearborn, and his law degree from Michigan State University College of Law. Professor Karcher is an active commentator on sports law. He has contributed to a sports law blog and has written several law journal articles relating to athletes and sports agents. Professor Karcher himself was a professional athlete, and looks like one, by the way. Welcome. He spent 4 years prior to college in the Atlanta Braves farm system.

    Our next witness is Mr. LaVar Arrington, who is a linebacker with the New York Giants. He is well known to the people of Washington as he was a star player for the Washington Redskins. Mr. Arrington was selected in the first round, second overall, by the Redskins in the 2000 NFL draft. In the summer of 2006, Mr. Arrington bought out his contract with the Washington Redskins and became a free agent. He then signed a contract with the New York Giants.
 Page 12       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. Arrington graduated from Penn State University in 1999. During his last year at Penn State, Mr. Arrington earned the Chuck Bednarik Award as the Nation's top defensive player and the Dick Butkus Award as college football's premier linebacker. He is a very scary guy in his line of work, but we are pleased to have you.

    Mr. Arrington has also developed himself into an off-field NFL personality, starring in television shows, commercials and feature stars in non-NFL magazines, including GQ, Maxim and the Rolling Stone. Thank you for coming today.

    Our next witness is Richard Berthelsen, General Counsel for the NFLPA. Mr. Berthelsen has represented the NFLPA for 34 years. During his tenure at the NFLPA Mr. Berthelsen has also been involved with professional soccer. Throughout the 1980's, he served as General Counsel for two soccer league players associations.

    Mr. Berthelsen received his undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin, and graduated in the top 10 from the University of Wisconsin Law School. He served on the Board of Directors of the Sports Lawyers Association since 1986 and was a cofounder of the Association of Representatives of Professional Athletes. He is also a member of the Board of Advisers of the National Sports Law Institute.

    Thank you for being here today.

    Larry Friedman is our final witness. He is an attorney with an extensive background in arbitration law. He currently represents a sports agent who has been suspended by the NFLPA and has filed a lawsuit in a Texas court against that organization. He received his undergraduate degree from Queens College, the City of New York, University of New York. He received his law degree with honors from the University of Minnesota. He is the managing partner of Friedman & Feiger, LLP, a Dallas law firm.
 Page 13       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    I extend to our warmest regards and appreciation for you being here.

    You have 5 minutes. Please feel free to summarize. There is a lighting system in front of you. This is a room that needs to be revamped. Your lighting system is up here. We will tap the dais when the red light goes on. You should feel comfortable wrapping up at that point.

    Pursuant to the direction of the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I ask you all stand and raise your hand and be sworn in.

    [Witnesses sworn.]

    Mr. CANNON. The record should show that the witnesses have all answered in the affirmative.

    Mr. Karcher, we would be pleased to hear your testimony now. Thank you.


    Mr. KARCHER. Thank you. Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee, good morning and thank you for inviting me today to give my testimony.

 Page 14       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    The NFLPA, unlike unions in the other sports, have been aggressively disciplining agents over recent years. The NFLPA would claim that there's an entire system of rules and regulations that protect the NFLPA's disciplinary process as a shield, more or less, from claims of arbitrary enforcement and violations of due process. That system is made of the following points, briefly.

    The NFLPA is the exclusive representative of the players under the NLRA, but they have chosen a unique system in which third party agents represent the players in individual contract negotiations. As a condition to certification, agents must consent to the NFLPA's agent regulations unilaterally created and amended by the union without any negotiation whatsoever. The NFLPA's regulations have been upheld by the courts, allowing the union unfettered discretion in its creation of the regulations and amendments.

    The NFLPA's regulations are drafted very broadly, leaving the NFLPA complete discretion to determine whether an agent's conduct falls within its provisions regarding what constitutes prohibited conduct. As an example, they prohibit, quote, any activity which reflects adversely on his or her fitness as a contract adviser or jeopardizes his or her effective representation of players.

    CARD, which is a disciplinary committee of the NFLPA, has the power to immediately suspend or revoke an agent's license without a hearing and without an opportunity to be heard in, quote, extraordinary circumstances, end quote. That definition is determined by CARD, so CARD'S authority is not limited to merely proposing discipline. If an agent appeals CARD's suspension under such circumstances, the appeal shall not stay the disciplinary action.

 Page 15       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    The same arbitrator has been both selected and paid for by the NFLPA for the past 13 years. There's no right to discovery, no pre-hearing or post-hearing briefs. Arbitrators' decisions are not readily available so there really is no precedent. The arbitrator is the last resort for the disciplined agent because courts will typically not review the arbitrator's decision even if the court believes that there were factual errors made by the arbitrator or that the arbitrator applied the law wrongly.

    So the question worth exploring today is whether the NFLPA should be permitted to use this system as a shield and whether one or more of the points making up this system should be changed in a way that makes the disciplinary process more fair to agents but at the same time preserves the legitimate function of the union in looking after the best interest of the players.

    Under this system the NFLPA makes subjective assessments about particular agents over others and these decisions will naturally be affected by certain biases that the union may or may not have against certain agents.

    There are some recent suspensions that at least raise some questions regarding arbitrary enforcement and due process.

    Mr. Carl Poston's case. At the beginning of this year CARD filed a complaint against Carl Poston for alleged malpractice, recommending a 2-year suspension. Thus CARD made a unilateral determination that Poston committed malpractice despite all of the factual issues in dispute in that matter.

 Page 16       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Poston then filed an appeal to the arbitrator and then simultaneously filed suit in Federal court alleging that the NFLPA violated its regulations in certain respects as well as to seek a neutral arbitrator.

    After Poston had to twice postpone the arbitration hearing for legitimate reasons, the NFLPA officially suspended him because according to them he, quote, used bad faith efforts to delay, frustrate and undermine the hearing. Executive Director Gene Upshaw criticized Poston publicly in the media for, quote, making a mockery of our system and that this is not about him, it's about our authority as the exclusive bargaining agent for the players. They, the agents, work at our beck and call.

    So a few questions arise out of the Poston situation: Is this an extraordinary circumstance, as I referred to earlier, under section 6B of the regulations that warrants immediate suspension without a stay pending the appeal to the arbitrator? What about the damage to Poston's reputation when he hasn't even had a fact finder decide many factual issues and consider his defenses? Is a 2-year suspension warranted under these circumstances, especially when his client is not upset?

    Upshaw's comments seem to indicate at least in part that they are making decisions based upon emotion leading to—it just leads to questions regarding arbitrary enforcement and due process. That's the point, I think today, to raise the questions about arbitrary enforcement and the due process of the agents.

    David Dunn is another situation in which he was suspended for soliciting clients. Soliciting clients in the agent business is very commonplace. However, the NFLPA singled out Dunn for soliciting clients after he left his partnership with Leigh Steinberg and suspended him for 2 years.
 Page 17       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    First, there's wide debate among lawyers, scholars, including this one sitting here at the table speaking, and judges whether soliciting clients is even misconduct. There's a court decision that said that that's perfectly fine in competition for client services.

    Second, is the suspension warranted for 2 years when the alleged solicitation involves clients that he used to represent when he was with his partner Leigh Steinberg? Again, is the 2-year suspension warranted when his own clients vehemently oppose any disciplinary action whatsoever, just as in the Poston case?

    Dunn—I'll wrap this up. Dunn agreed to an 18-month suspension which was essentially the effect of the original 2-year suspension imposed upon him.

    In light of the foregoing I believe that further hearings on this issue are important and warranted, and I thank you for your time.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Karcher follows:]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]

    Mr. COBLE. [Presiding]. I thank you, Professor.

 Page 18       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Mr. Arrington, you are recognized for 5 minutes.


    Mr. ARRINGTON. First let me start by saying thanks for having this hearing, Chairman Cannon.

    Mr. COBLE. Pull that mike closer, please.

    Mr. ARRINGTON. I usually don't have a mike to speak into. Usually got to be loud.

    But like I said, to reiterate, I'd first like to thank you all for having this hearing. The Chairman isn't available, Representative Lee isn't here, but thank you all for being here to hear my testimony.

    I have my written statement and it's been presented and rather than read it I'll just, I guess, take a spin off of Mr. Karcher and what he basically said about the process of how things are conducted by the NFLPA, also as a current player in the NFL. No one in this situation with Carl Poston and myself, other than the representatives of the Washington Redskins, are intimate with the details of the situation like we are so I feel at liberty to be able to say that I have a firm understanding and a firm grasp on what transpired during the course of those contract negotiations.

 Page 19       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    With that being said, speaking from the heart, not reading my statement, I just basically feel like in this situation as a player when the player shows that he has a firm understanding of what is transpiring, what is going on, and something happens, then in that process I feel like as an employee for the NFLPA, which is an association to help us and for us, that our opinions should be valid, they should be heard, and ultimately they should be respected. And I don't think that a comment or comments being made about the player not understanding well enough or not being able to understand enough to represent himself enough to make a decision in terms of whether an agent or anything else that has to do with the player's personal affairs should be made by other individuals.

    I think that once you take that from a player, it's on the fence of what do you represent. Are you just somebody who puts on pads and goes out on the field and give people entertainment for a couple hours on Sunday, or are we legitimate people in this society that make decisions? And I think in this situation that comes into play because I definitely on numerous occasions made sure that I communicated to the NFLPA that I did not have anything inside of me that would warrant me to take action against Carl Poston and what happened in the contract negotiation process.

    Ultimately in that situation, I call it ordeal because now I'm a New York Giant I feel like as a result of it, and in that ordeal there was an agreement made between the Redskins and myself that there was no one at fault in this situation. And, to me, if there's an agreement, a settlement that no one is at fault, then how, and maybe—I'm not a law scholar or anything like that, I'm not a lawyer, but I just think that using common sense, how does a disciplinary act toward Carl Poston come about when there was a compromise that was agreed to and it was a no-fault compromise, but yet still out of that situation there's a disciplinary act being taken against Carl Poston.
 Page 20       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    For me, I feel like that's a violation of Carl Poston and his right to represent me as the athlete, but also it's a violation to me as an NFL player. This is my seventh year in the NFL, it's not my first or second, so I'd like to believe I understand a lot about what this game is about. I'm actually a well-versed historian on the game. I enjoy learning the game, I enjoy knowing about the players and different things like that.

    So taking that all into consideration, I am a professional, avid professional in this game. I'm not someone who has come in and gone just as quick as I came in. So I have been in this game quite a while. I would say 7 years is quite a while. I think the average is 3 minutes.

    Anyway, wrapping it up, I'd like to say hopefully you guys will take a look seriously as how what Mr. Karcher basically alluded to, is how this process is done, how the arbitration process is done within the NFL and with NFLPA and also present some rulemaking decisions that kind of puts everybody on an equal playing field.

    Thank you for your time.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Arrington follows:]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
 Page 21       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. COBLE. Mr. Arrington, thank you. You heard my comments about my late friend Mr. Leonard. I guess you knew him. For the record I want you all to know I come into this hearing with an open mind. Jerris Leonard was a very dear friend, and I know he felt very compassionately about this issue, but I am open-minded.

    Now let me go informal here a minute. I think you and I need to go vote.

    Mr. DELAHUNT. I was going to suggest, Mr. Chairman, that since you and I would probably cancel each other out, and that's just speculation on my part, of course. And I don't think it's a matter of substance, I think it's a procedural matter.

    Mr. COBLE. I hate to miss the vote. He's on his way back now. So why don't we suspend very briefly, gentlemen. As soon as Mr. Cannon comes back, we'll resume. I'll go vote. And often times, as my friends from Massachusetts says, often times we do cancel each other out but we do so harmoniously, right?

    Mr. DELAHUNT. Absolutely. We're pals.

    Mr. COBLE. You all suspend for a moment and we'll resume as soon as he comes back.

    [Brief recess.]

    Mr. CANNON. [presiding.] We won't reconvene until the people who have serious questions return. So at ease or whatever we do.
 Page 22       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Why don't we come back to order. Life is tough when you're big and handsome and done something worthy to be remembered. Thank you, Mr. Arrington, for your willingness to do those pictures. It's very kind of you. When we shift majority there's a lot of transition, especially on staff, and this may be the highlight of the week for some our folks here.

    My understanding is that Mr. Arrington has given his testimony but we're still waiting to hear from Mr. Berthelsen. So we'll just take a moment while people sit down and get some order here. Then we'll proceed.

    I apologize. We had a vote. I ran over early to vote, so I apologize for missing your testimony, both Mr. Karcher and Mr. Arrington. Those who were here will be on their way back, and Ms. Jackson Lee was really one of the principal reasons why we've done this hearing and she's here now. If others get back, fine; if not, we'll give her some time to do questioning and go from there.

    Again, we appreciate your indulgence here. Our process is awkward, the day is awkward, but the issue is important.

    Mr. Berthelsen, would you like to—we recognize you for 5 minutes.


 Page 23       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee. I'm very fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with you this morning. I appreciate the invitation. I wish I would have a little bit more than 5 minutes, but I will try to be as brief as I can.

    Mr. CANNON. I'm sure you will have an opportunity to expound during the questioning period.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Thank you very much.

    A bit about myself. I have been an attorney employed full time by the National Football League Players Association since 1972, so I have been with the organization for over 34 years. We were the first sports union to implement an agent regulation program, and as general counsel of the union at the time it became my job to research this area and to see what was done in other industries and what was legal and what was not legal, and I read among other things a Supreme Court case by the name of H.A. Artists, which established and is still good law that unions not only have the right but the obligation to regulate agents who do individual salary bargaining for their members, and in fact the agent really is the agent for the union under that approach and under the law. And so I have always followed that.

    It's been suggested that we use the law as a shield. Quite the contrary. I looked at the law to begin with and saw what was allowed and proposed a more liberal system to the board of player reps, but they are our governing body. They are the ones who implemented these regulations with several changes which they desired.

 Page 24       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    The format for the disciplinary nature of our program is first, last and always dependent on the actions of players like Mr. Arrington. Mr. Arrington is a player in a real sense. I'm here representing seven other players who happen to disagree with him about what happened in this case. We call it CARD, it's the Committee on Agent Regulation and Discipline. It includes Troy Vincent, our current President who plays for the Redskins; Trace Armstrong, a past President; Robert Smith, who played for the Vikings; Tony Richardson, who now plays for the Vikings; Brian Dawkins with the Eagles, Robert Porcher, retired, and Larry Izzo, who's with the Patriots.

    That committee met about every discipline case that we have had. They are the ones who decide whether to issue a complaint, which is the first step, they are the ones to decide after the agent answers that complaint whether discipline is appropriate, and if they do, they propose discipline.

    Unlike what Mr. Karcher said, they don't dictate the discipline, they don't determine it. They propose the discipline. And the next step in that process is that if the agent wishes to challenge the discipline as proposed by this committee of players, then it goes to arbitration. Our current arbitrator is Roger Kaplan.

    This system has worked extremely well. It's worked for over 23 years. We have not had any complaints from any of the agents who we meet with on a periodic annual basis. We have a committee known as the Agent Advisory Committee. We meet with them every year. And contrary to what Mr. Karcher represents, we do not act unilaterally. This committee of agents has input on everything we do in the regulations. An example of that is this past year where we met with the committee as our board of reps had proposed the reduction in agents' fees and this group convinced our CARD committee not to do that and they carried the agents' message to the meeting and that got defeated.
 Page 25       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    But in this particular case, and it's unfortunate the subject of pending cases has been brought up, I do have to address the situation with Mr. Arrington. His agent left 6.5 million dollars out of a contract that he negotiated for Mr. Arrington. He allowed Mr. Arrington to sign that contract without it being in it.

    When our committee looked at this situation one of the first things they did was to talk to Mr. Arrington. He spoke to them for over 45 minutes by telephone conference call in their meeting. But they also looked at some realities in the NFL because every contract in this league depends on every other contract. When a player who's an all pro linebacker negotiates a deal, the next linebacker who's up for a deal says to the club I want the deal that he got or I want a better deal than him because I'm better than him. And if the last relevant contract is missing $6.5 million, that has an effect on that player and several other players and on the whole system. That's point number one.

    Point number two, we have in our agreement something called the franchise player. That's a player who's an exception to being a free agent. The club can say you are our franchise player and our agreement says that the consequence of that is that that player gets the average of the top 5 salaries at his position in the league guaranteed for 1 year.

    Mr. Arrington's contract, had it contained the terms it should have contained, would have caused that top 5 average to go up the year that this occurred, but because it was missing that money it had impact on franchise players in that category.

    Thirdly, and just as importantly, it is true as Mr. Karcher says that we have been active in disciplining agents. Our committee has disciplined agents on frequent past occasions for gross negligence, and those agents in question have served their suspensions. If we say that in this case there's not going to be any action, what we're saying to the people who have been disciplined in the past and who went through the procedure is that we're going to treat you differently than someone else, and to have disparate treatment within a system is something that you cannot do under any stretch of principle or law.
 Page 26       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    So our committee as a group listened to Mr. Arrington but disagreed with him as to the appropriate action to be taken in this case.

    One final point, if I could. Mr. Karcher said that we act unilaterally; that Mr. Poston was suspended immediately without a hearing. The reality is quite the contrary. Mr. Poston had three hearings scheduled, one in May, one in June and one in July. On all three occasions at the very last minute he happened to find circumstances, create circumstances or incurred circumstances which caused him to request a postponement.

    Our committee looked very skeptically on what had happened because it appeared to them that he did not want to come to present his case or his defense. So it took this action, which it's allowed to under the regulations, to say your suspension goes into effect immediately. But what wasn't mentioned here was that in the same letter and in the same regulation that allows that it says the person affected is entitled to an expedited immediate hearing.

    That was offered to Mr. Poston if he wanted to challenge our action. He chose not to. Although he technically appealed the immediate action of suspending him, his counsel chose not to pursue that appeal, not to challenge the committee's actions and its doubts about Mr. Poston's constant postponements, and instead chose to go forward on the original appeal of the underlying case.

    So Mr. Poston, although he's been offered since day one the right to come to Washington at his convenience to challenge what has been done, has deliberately chosen not to, and this is what our committee is having to deal with in this situation.
 Page 27       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Berthelsen follows:]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]

    Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. Berthelsen.

    Mr. Friedman, you're recognized for 5 minutes.


    Mr. FRIEDMAN. Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for inviting me here today, and Members of the Subcommittee. My name is Larry Friedman. I'm an attorney. I practice law in Dallas County, Texas, and I have practiced there for over 28 years. I'm here today on behalf of Steven Weinberg, who is here with me today, along with my partner Bart Higgins, and I am here representing Mr. Weinberg as well.

    I paid very close attention when Mr. Coble spoke and quoted his friend Jerris Leonard and said that ''a flawed process is worse than no process at all.'' Well, I am here to relate to you Mr. Weinberg's story. He was a certified contract adviser and I am here to say that the NFLPA's arbitration process is a flawed process and it is worse than no process at all.
 Page 28       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Let me relate that to modern terms. Mr. Cannon, Mr. Chairman, if you were Donald Trump and this was The Apprentice, and this was the show, The Apprentice, and you had assembled a team of tremendous talent, including Gene Upshaw, NFLPA Executive Director; Richard Berthelsen, General Counsel; Tom DePaso, Staff Counsel; Regional Director, Mark Levin, Director of Salary Caps and Agent Administration; Trace Armstrong, former President of CARD; and Roger Kaplan, the specially appointed arbitrator of NFLPA disciplinary actions—and you said to these people, with all your talent we want you to put together an arbitration process with all the proper procedural safeguards that you can put together. We want you to put together an arbitration process that would deter arbitrary and capricious decision making, we want you to put together an arbitration process that gives every participant proper notice and an opportunity to be heard, and we want you to allow disciplinary procedures to be heard by an impartial decision maker. And, if these people brought you the current arbitration process that's in effect at the NFLPA, Mr. Chairman, you would look at these people spread out across your board room and you would have two words for them, you would say, ''You're fired.'' Because the process that is in effect doesn't allow the participants the procedural safeguards that we in this country allow people who are accused of a crime or accused of wrongdoing, and what you have here is a valuable property right, the right of a man or a woman to earn a living.

    With regard to my client, Steve Weinberg was a very successful player agent. He had 42 clients when he was decertified, including Stephen Davis on whose behalf Mr. Weinberg negotiated a $135 million contract. Mr. Weinberg lost his right to earn a living because of the capricious and arbitrary nature of the arbitration process.

    Had there been standards, had there been safeguards, had he had the ability to participate in a process, had he had the ability to bring witnesses, to present evidence, to cross-examine his accusers, he would still be an agent today. He would still be earning a living today.
 Page 29       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Today, Mr. Weinberg doesn't have a job. His wife is sick and her health is failing. He doesn't have a job and he doesn't have an opportunity to earn a living. The NFLPA agent certification says that the NFLPA agrees that it shall not delete any agent from its list until that agent has exhausted the opportunity to appeal the deletion to a neutral arbitrator pursuant to its agent regulation system. Well, that would be great if that's what happened. It didn't happen in this case.

    In Mr. Weinberg's case his punishment took effect before his appeal was final. In fact, why was he decertified? He was decertified because he and his former partner were in a dispute over the distribution of partnership funds. Mr. Weinberg was told by someone employed by the NFLPA, hey, file a grievance against your former partner, will help you out. So he did. Mr. Weinberg's former partner then filed a retaliatory grievance against him.

    Fifteen of Mr. Weinberg's clients, player clients filed a grievance against Mr. Weinberg's former partner. The NFLPA, Mr. Berthelsen, arbitrarily decided to pursue Mr. Weinberg's former partner's grievance against Mr. Weinberg and did not pursue the 15 grievances against Mr. Weinberg's former partner, did not pursue those grievances and did pursue the one grievance. That's not fair. That matter should have been fully heard.

    Mr. Chairman, the process needs a thorough investigation. We would encourage this Committee to look into it, to hold more elaborate hearings, to get more information, to hear from the players themselves, to hear more from the agents who have been subject to the process and who are also part of the process now.

 Page 30       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    I have read Mr. Carl Poston's testimony that was submitted to the Committee, and Mr. Poston has some very good suggestions at the end of his testimony. He lists seven points.

    Mr. CANNON. We have that in the record.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. I'm not going to repeat it. I'm just saying we endorse it.

    [The prepared statement of Mr. Friedman follows:]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]

    Mr. CANNON. Thank you. Your time having run, I'm going to ask a couple of questions then we'll turn the time to others who might have questions.

    You talked about the 15 complaints against Mr. Weinberg's opponent; I would like to have something in the record on that. And Mr. Berthelsen, we would like to have something in the record, written in the record in response to that, and we will provide time for that to happen.

    But I actually want to ask a more theoretical question. We have Mr. Arrington here, who is a star, he is obviously a bright guy, he did well in college and can handle himself, and so I would like to go back to this $6.5 million that you are concerned about, that the Players Union is concerned about, and to balance that, would you tell us about that $6.5 million, whether you wanted it, whether it was a mistake, whether you thought you had a contractual right to work with your agent to get it, or whether you didn't care, and if so, why not, because 6.5 million is enough to care about, I think. But secondly, why you wanted your agent, instead of another agent, given that $6.5 million?
 Page 31       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Restate the last part.

    Mr. CANNON. Mr. Berthelsen said that you were cheated essentially out of $6.5 million. I would like to know what that was and how you viewed that.

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Well, in the situation, during the course of those contract negotiations, what Mr. Berthelsen felt that—discloses that during the course of those negotiations, NFLPA has a deadline on the time that you can get a contract done due to salary cap purposes—at least that is the way it is told to us. So during the course of this time, there were large discussions on getting the contract done before this deadline. And at the time that this contract was being negotiated, it came down to like the waning hour—I think it was about 2 hours or so before the deadline, the stated deadline time of getting the contract done to effect a salary cap of the team had passed.

    So in the last, I guess—not too long before the deadline, they—my agent and the Redskins people, whoever were involved with the negotiations—came to an agreement. I then, at this point in time, went to a Redskins facility. He says that my agent was negligent for not being there with me at the time. I don't think that anybody—any agent or anybody that represents an individual that has given and sacrificed as much as I did for the Washington Redskins organization would feel uncomfortable going behind closed doors and getting a deal done to make me a life-long Redskins.

    And I think a lot of times, with all of the technical talk that is used, that sounds good, but at the end of the day we are all people. And the bottom line is, when I went there, I was under the firm impression that I am signing an 8-year deal. I was definitely up on all the details of the contract. The 6.5 million of a roster bonus given in July when you go report in for camp, and it was I guess a multi-year deal, or whatever.
 Page 32       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    But when those documents were being sent to my agent, while I was doing this contract, I had a game the next day against Philadelphia. I am more concerned about being a good employee, making sure that over a contract I am not, you know—things had been done, in my opinion, things had been done on a professional level on a professional scale thus up to that point. So once we got to that point, I felt like whatever—if there is anything wrong, which in anybody who goes into a business deal, if there is anything wrong with the language or anything that is, you know, I guess inaccurate, you mark those things, you go back and you fix them.

    Now, when that came about, the 6.5, yeah, when we found out that it was gone, or it was never put in there, then we went over our files. Once we went through the files and saw that the 6.5 million was not there, then that was when—well, they tried to contact me, but I was getting ready to go to a Pro Bowl, and I was a little younger, I think 2, 3 years ago, so I was having fun at the Super Bowl, so I wasn't really paying too much attention to my cell phone. But once the situation was, you know, recognized, then we then went to NFLPA to have them act on it.

    Now, doing that in good faith—we did that in good faith; if something is wrong, just show in the evidence where, you know, that 6.5 should have been on a certain page, and——

    Mr. CANNON. Did you get that 6.5 ultimately?

    Mr. ARRINGTON. No, I did not. Not only did I not get the 6.5, I didn't finish out the life of the contract either.
 Page 33       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. CANNON. You are not unhappy with the Redskins or your agent.

    Mr. ARRINGTON. No. The situation was resolved. Like I said earlier, I alluded to earlier, there was a no fault resolution; so it was recognized that there was no fault by the Redskins and it was recognized that there was no fault by me or my agent.

    Mr. CANNON. I am going to try to stick closely to the rule. Unfortunately I couldn't see the red light. I am over a minute, so I am going to ask my colleague's permission—I am going to be strict with the gavel at 5 minutes so we can get through everybody who has questions.

    Since we have been back and forth, I think that Mr. Delahunt, you are the first on——

    Mr. DELAHUNT. Whatever, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. CANNON. We should recognize Mr. Watt has joined us.

    Do you have questions, Mr. Delahunt?

    Mr. DELAHUNT. Yes.

    Mr. CANNON. Good. The gentleman is recognized for 5 minutes.
 Page 34       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. DELAHUNT. I will direct this to Mr. Berthelsen.

    Did I hear you correctly, in terms of the arbitrator has served for a 13-year period?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Since 1994. We have had three arbitrators under the system. The first one was Kenneth Moffett, who is a former director at the FMCS. The second one was Senator John Culver, after he served as a senator, he served for several years. And Mr. Kaplan has served since 1994. Mr. Kaplan——

    Mr. DELAHUNT. Okay. I will tell you, I have a bit of a problem; you know, there is an assertion by some that the individual who is currently serving—and I know nothing about him—might not fit the definition of ''neutral arbitrator.'' Has the NFLPA considered, as these cases come individually, rotating arbitrators? In other words, I think common sense dictates that over a period of time, there becomes a comfort level with one individual serving as an arbitrator. I am just posing the question to you: Has there ever been consideration by the Players Association to examine the possibility of having a pool of arbitrators to be selected by the opposing parties to ensure neutrality?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. I think you have to understand the system a little bit better, as it operates, for me to fully answer that question.

    The arbitrator under the system decides three different types of disputes. He decides disputes between players and agents, usually over fees. And this is a thing that the agents think is extremely good and they think it is working extremely well because in over 80 percent of the cases, the arbitrator rules for the agent over the player. There are other cases where it is agent versus agent, and then there are disciplinary cases. Mr. Kaplan has done all of those things for all of these years——
 Page 35       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. DELAHUNT. I understand that, and I am sure he brings an expertise to it. But what I am suggesting is, in terms of—let's call it due process.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Yes, we have considered more than one arbitrator. And we may be near a time when we have to have an additional arbitrator because the case load is considerable.

    Mr. DELAHUNT. And I appreciate that. And my point is, I am looking at it in a systemic way, to ensure that there is a random quality, if you will, to the process itself, to the process of arbitration, as opposed to reliance on a single individual over an extended period of time. Because clearly, after 13 years, you know, you can be Mother Teresa, but you are going to start to develop an attitude on different issues, I mean, that is just human nature. And I wonder if there is a better system in terms of ensuring that the individual selected is a neutral—underscore ''neutral''—arbitrator and doesn't have a certain preordained view of individuals, whether they be players or arbitrators, because that does happen.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. We have had arbitrators in the NFL serve much longer than 13 years; it is not at all unusual for that to happen.

    Mr. DELAHUNT. I know, but what I am saying is I don't know if that is a healthy component of the arbitration system if you want to ensure that you have a neutral—underscore, again—''neutral'' arbitrator.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Well, Mr. Kaplan is a neutral arbitrator, he is a member of the National Academy——
 Page 36       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. DELAHUNT. I am sure he is a great guy, Mr. Berthelsen, and I have no doubt about his expertise, but what I am saying is let's step back and not think about the current system, but just in terms of this discrete issue, a rotation, you know, on an ad hoc basis, for example—whether it is Mr. Arrington or whatever the issue is—to ensure that there is confidence in the arbitration system. Someone whom could be selected by agreement among the parties I think is something that should be considered.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Since I do slightly at least have the floor, I forgot something earlier. I do have letters from our counterparts in the National Hockey League Players Association, and the NBPA, the National Basketball Players Association; one letter from Billy Hunter, who is the Executive Director of the NBPA, another from Ted Saskin, who is the executive director of the NHLPA. And I would like, if I could, to make this part of the record.

    Mr. CANNON. Without objection, that will be made part of the record.

    [The information referred to can be found in the Appendix.]

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. These organizations have the same system that ours does.

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Does that make it correct? That is the question there. You are very accurate in what you are saying now. That is loyalty is what you are saying; 13-year-period of time the man is serving as your arbitrator, there is a loyalty there; whether he wants to acknowledge that or not, there is a loyalty. It doesn't matter what his background is or not, it is loyalty.
 Page 37       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. DELAHUNT. I think Mr. Friedman wants to respond, too, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. Let's look at the people who have been most successful in the arbitration business, in being neutral, the American Arbitration Association. Now I am not an expert on that, but I have arbitrated there many times. They offer a panel of arbitrators to select from. They offer you 10 choices. Those people give you a resume and those people disclose conflicts of interest. You get a chance to strike people who have biases, or relations, or know people, or know subject matters, so that you can comb them out to wind up with a panel of either one or three, as neutral an arbitrator as you can get. And then they have those panels in every city. It is a try-hard organization, and the most successful one I know.

    Mr. CANNON. Thank you. The gentleman yields back.

    Mr. Coble, the gentleman from North Carolina, is recognized from 5 minutes.

    Mr. COBLE. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, it is a privilege to have you all with us.

    Mr. Friedman, you have had considerable experience with arbitrations involving automobile dealers and manufacturers, et cetera. If you will—well, strike that. Let me say it a different way.

 Page 38       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Compare the procedures employed by NFLPA with other arbitration with which you are familiar.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. Yes, sir. As I mentioned just a moment ago, with the American Arbitration Association and with the dealer franchise organizations and with, not only in the automobile industry, but also in the food industry, McDonalds, Burger King, Church's, Kentucky Fried Chicken, it appears to be me that a greater effort is made in these other places to provide a process that has more procedural safeguards so that the truth gets to the top and impartiality governs, neutrality governs, so that both—there is a system of polite advocacy; one side provides documents, the other side provides documents, one side can ask questions, the other side can request questions. There is an opportunity for cross-examination, which is the greatest tool in American jurisprudence to discover the truth. And then you present that to as neutral an arbitrator as you can get. It is not a perfect system, but it is better than this one.

    Mr. COBLE. Mr. Berthelsen, speaking of neutrality, let me put this question to you; it would seem a symptom to some of the complaints that we have heard today is that the NFLPA procedures do not ensure that the arbitrator chosen to resolve the disciplinary action against the certified contract advisors are sufficiently neutral to render an impartial determination. Now, what say you to that?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. I didn't understand about—sufficiently what?

    Mr. COBLE. Are sufficiently neutral to render an impartial determination.
 Page 39       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Well, I would disagree with that. And the previous witness said to you that procedures he knows involve things like cross-examination of witnesses and the ability to confront accusers and what have you; and our system has that and more. In every hearing that we have, there is cross-examination of witnesses, the opportunity to present any and all witnesses who have relevant testimony. There is even opportunity for briefing; there is opportunity for prehearing discoveries through the issuance of subpoenas, which are often done. But the tenor of your question is that the person that we have now is not neutral, and that is what I would disagree with. He has been an arbitrator in the public and private sector for over 25 years——

    Mr. COBLE. Mr. Berthelsen, I did not mean that that was my opinion, I was saying consistent with some of the testimony that we have heard today is what I was basing my question on.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Well, with all due respect, some of the testimony that you have heard—I am not sure what you are referring to—but a lot of it, with the exception of Mr. Arrington, who was describing his feelings to you, has not been factual. And the problem that I have is that with the limited time that I have, I cannot point out, for example, what he said about how we took up the grievance of Mr. Weinberg's former partner, that is just not true, we didn't take up anybody's grievance. Our committee decided that there should be discipline for Mr. Weinberg. So I am sorry if I didn't seem to answer your question, but that is the best I can do.

    Mr. COBLE. Before the Chairman gavels me down, Mr. Arrington, do you or the professor want to weigh in on either one of my questions?
 Page 40       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. KARCHER. Yes, thank you. I guess I have to respond because I didn't know that I actually made some false statements regarding the regulations. And I just—they are really not that long, I mean, I attached—I included them in the record. And it is not my purpose to, you know, pick a side here on anything, I am just looking at this thing for what it is. It is a system that they have chosen.

    And the system simply says that—basically it is a discretionary system. So when I said that CARD—I didn't say that CARD unilaterally makes a suspension, what I said was that CARD basically has the discretion, if it wants to, to unilaterally impose a disciplinary action and stay that appeal to the neutral arbitrator, to the neutral one.

    What it says is, and I will read it to you, it is not that very long, in the extraordinary circumstance—that is what I referred to in my original testimony—where the Committee on Agent Regulation and Discipline's investigation discloses that the contract advisor's conduct is of such a serious nature as to justify immediately revoking or suspending his or her certification, the committee, or CARD, may immediately revoke or suspend that certification with the filing of a disciplinary complaint, or thereafter. That is clear to me that CARD has the discretion to do that. Now whether they do that, I don't know. I am not part of the system. I don't know whether they actually do that.

    I see what they did in Mr. Poston's case, which is that they proposed—they didn't initially exercise this clause, exercising discretion, they proposed a discipline, and Mr. Poston immediately filed his appeal within the time frame that he was supposed to to the arbitrator, simultaneously filed a complaint in Federal court. And then a few months later, CARD—which is a committee of the NFLPA, so they are really not—I mean, I look at it as the NFLPA, it is a committee of the NFLPA. The NFLPA basically then officially suspended him for 2 years, not a proposal, an official suspension. And my guess is, I am speculating, that they would rely on this clause and say that this was an extraordinary circumstance. Well, what was the extraordinary circumstance that did it? I don't know——
 Page 41       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. COBLE. I am going to have to yield back because my time is expired. Thank you.

    Mr. CANNON. Thank you, Mr. Coble.

    Mr. Berthelsen, I take it—first of all, Mr. Karcher, did you finish your statement? Because we are getting now I think pretty much to the core of this issue, and obviously there is a lot of concern by this Committee——

    Mr. KARCHER. There is one other thing I would just add is that I want to make sure that I finish what the regulation says. In such event, under these extraordinary circumstances, which would be determined by NFLPA, the contract advisor would be entitled to an expedited appeal, as Mr. Berthelsen correctly noted, of that action pursuant to section 6(e), except that such appeal shall not stay a discipline.

    So you have a situation where they are disciplined immediately without any opportunity to be heard. And that is all I meant to say. If I misspoke earlier in my statement, you know, I apologize, but that is what I was referring to.

    Mr. CANNON. Mr. Berthelsen, you said a couple of times you don't feel like you have enough time. Let me be clear that you can submit things for the record after this time. Obviously we are going to go with the flow of questions, but you seem to be pretty intent to respond to this. We are happy to have you do that, without objection.

 Page 42       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Just to finish the thought, and I think I said it before, we realize that there is a responsibility that goes with immediately taking action, it is only done under extraordinary circumstances, and I believe we only did it 3 or 4 times in our history; the responsibility is to grant that person an immediate hearing. And in Mr. Poston's case, that is what we wanted to have, but that is what we weren't getting because he had postponed three hearings in a row. But he chose not to avail himself of the opportunity to come to a hearing immediately. And we can't force that, we can't go forward without him. And that is what I wanted to point out in this.

    With Mr. Karcher, he says he doesn't favor anyone's position here and pretends to be neutral. I really would like the opportunity to point out about how his statement has a multitude of inaccuracies from the beginning to the end.

    Mr. CANNON. You should do that. And I am sure Mr. Karcher would respond to that. That is an appropriate thing to do.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. I appreciate that.

    Mr. CANNON. You want to say something here, but I suspect that you can do it by a written statement.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. I will be brief, Mr. Chairman.

    I am not neutral, Mr. Chairman. By reading of the regulations, it appears to me that CARD does not allow cross-examination, and that the record will reflect that the arbitration is simply a rubber stamp for the discipline that CARD dishes out. In Steve Weinberg's case, he had 15 players that were willing to testify—that were there to testify on his behalf. Two of them drove through a blizzard to get to a hearing and they were denied access to that hearing. The other 13 were available by speakerphone, they were denied access to that hearing. Steve Weinberg's is a case that ought to be examined.
 Page 43       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. CANNON. I am not going to go back to Mr. Berthelsen because we are not—but we do expect some information to go into the record to continue to consider this. This is not Republicans against Democrats here, this is going to be an ongoing issue, I think, and so we are anxious to have your input. It is not my time at this point, Mr. Arrington, so I what I am going to do is yield to Mr. Watt, the gentleman from North Carolina, for 5 minutes.

    Mr. WATT. Just long enough to say my apologies to the Chair and to the witnesses for not being here, apologies in this sense; I mean, we come to various choices we have to make quite often in this institution, and sometimes we have committed to do things prior to the scheduling of a hearing. I was at that crossroads when this hearing was scheduled because I had already committed to do a speech over at the Naval Yard to a group of interns. So that doesn't necessarily mean that I put a higher value on that than what you are here to talk about. I am sure this is valuable and important, although from the beginning I would have to say I have questioned how we get into it at this juncture.

    So having said that, I haven't read all the testimony, haven't heard the witnesses, so no sense in me starting to cross-examine or examine anybody. Perhaps I could yield 2 minutes of my time to Ms. Jackson Lee and 2 minutes of my time to Mr. Meehan, both of whom have been here and may have greater knowledge and have a greater interest.

    Mr. CANNON. Without objection. We actually have authorized them to take the balance of this——

    Mr. WATT. So I shouldn't give them 2 more minutes.
 Page 44       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. CANNON. They already have five of their own.

    Mr. WATT. Okay. In that case, I will yield back my time and let them use their 5 minutes. I don't want to advantage them over the Members of the Subcommittee.

    Mr. CANNON. I can assure you that with the discretion of the Chair, they will have as much opportunity to ask questions as they would like.

    And let me just add, Mr. Watt has been very gracious, he has said very gracious things here. He had his speech lined up I am absolutely certain before this hearing was called because it was called and cancelled and then called again as an attempt to let some of the Members of the Committee who are interested in this do the hearing, and we appreciate your being available and flexible on the part of the panel; but Mr. Watt is thoroughly appropriate, it was not a matter of priorities in his case, it was a matter of prior commitments.

    Mr. WATT. I guess I should, as a clarifying factor, say that I hope that whatever I said to those interns over there has more impact on them than what this hearing has on this, but I don't know that either.

    Mr. CANNON. I will say, this has been a very interesting hearing——

    Mr. WATT. They always are.

 Page 45       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Mr. CANNON. So with that, we would, by prior unanimous consent, we have allowed Members of the full Committee who are not Members of the Subcommittee the opportunity to participate. And so Ms. Jackson Lee, if you are interested, you are recognized for 5 minutes.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Chairman, let me thank you and Mr. Watt for your graciousness and your willingness to provide an opportunity and a forum for what I think is particularly instructive this morning.

    Allow me also to thank all of the witnesses, and to express my appreciation for the detail and the respect in which you are offering your testimony this morning.

    I believe that, short of this being a legislative hearing in the waning hours of the 109th Congress, frankly, we are looking at a situation that begs for legislative relief.

    Mr. Weinberg, let me acknowledge you and thank you for your presence here, and offer my concern and expression of concern for you and your wife. And to say that we are not in a mode of acrimonious one-upsmanship. Frankly, I believe that there are many of us who are on this panel who could battle anyone in our commitment to the existence of unions and your right to exist and the prerogatives that you have and the value that you have.

    We realize that the athletic unions have modelled after some of the more senior unions, and we are gratified for your existence, and I know that players in years past have been gratified as well.
 Page 46       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    But if anyone thinks—and I am delighted that Ranking Member Watt raised the question of the nexus, and the nexus has to do with the overall jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee in ensuring, if you will, the separation, like the fingers on the hand, the whole issue of antitrust and monopolistic approaches. And unfortunately, athletic leagues have fallen into or could be compared to monopolies. You can't go play football on the golf course, you might, but you would get thrown out I would imagine by some good golfers—and Mr. Arrington, you may be a good golfer, many football players are. But it is a situation of not being able to go anywhere else to, in essence, exercise your profession.

    And as I listen to you, Mr. Arrington, I see a budding lawyer coming up, so your attention to details is one that I appreciate.

    Mr. WATT. Would the gentlelady yield just for a clarification, and then I will ask unanimous consent to give her the time back that I take from her.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I would be happy to yield.

    Mr. CANNON. Without objection, so ordered.

    Mr. WATT. I just want to be clear that I never questioned the nexus, I question the timing. If the Judiciary Committee intervened in every case in which there was a nexus between what is going on in the courts or in the arbitration process, or otherwise, it wouldn't be about nexus, it would be about timing. There are hundreds of people who are being denied Social Security benefits, this benefit, that benefit in a process that is out there. If we took time, as a Judiciary Committee, to intervene ourselves in each one of those cases, there wouldn't be a nexus to any one of them.
 Page 47       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    The timing of it is the question that I have questioned, and that I have raised. So I just wanted to clarify that. And I will ask that this time not be counted against her time, please.

    Mr. CANNON. Without objection, we will extend the gentlelady's time by 2 minutes.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the distinguished Chairman and I thank the Ranking Member. And the Ranking Member makes a very, very good point, and I intend in my questioning to answer that. Because I don't view this as a scattering of cases of which we might intervene, and he is absolutely right, we cannot use the resources for that.

    But let me briefly say a pointed point that Mr. Arrington made, and I would like to pose some questions very quickly. And that is that it was a flurry of the last minute negotiations as relates to your 6.5 million, and as I understand, Mr. Schaffer, who represented the Redskins, had made a commitment to Mr. Poston that that 6.5 million would ultimately be put in. And I think if there is an element of failure to you, it would certainly be that your agent was asleep and didn't even raise the point. And I understand that you are comfortable that that did not happen.

    And I am going to pose a question, but I would like to pursue both Mr. Friedman and Mr. Berthelsen. What I believe the line of questioning of Mr. Delahunt was—and it doesn't seem to be received—is that we are not commenting on the prowess, the excellence and the integrity of the existing arbitrator; but what we are saying is, is that as antitrust can get monopolistic, there is a hand in glove, and my fear is that there is a hand-in-glove relationship between the NFL and the NFLPA. My question is, would you not be comfortable with adhering to the American Arbitration Association rules and regulations in terms of establishing who would be an arbitrator in these situations?
 Page 48       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Our regulations specify that those rules do apply to our arbitration hearings.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Friedman.

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Those rules also state that whoever the parties have agreed to select as the arbitrator by contract must be the arbitrator in the case, and that is what happens in our situation.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. My time is short.

    Mr. Friedman, how to you contravene that? How do you relate to the fact that maybe a more adherence to the American Arbitration Association which creates an atmosphere that is neutral and impartial and unbiased?

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. Well, that would solve the problem.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. He suggests that he is following the rule.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. They are not. The rule says that they have to follow the procedures for arbitration. It suggests that they have to follow the procedures at a particular hearing or at the particular process. It doesn't say that they have to use the procedure to pick the arbitrator. In fact, the regulations say that the NFL will pick the neutral outside arbitrator, and the NFL continues to pick Roger Kaplan for every arbitration over the last 13 years.
 Page 49       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. And there lies the hand-in-glove scenario.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. That is the problem.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. What you are saying is you adhere completely to the American Arbitration Association, which might be a legislative fix, which might then make it more transparent, neutral and fair.

    Let me ask Mr. Arrington. I am literally shocked at some of what you have said because you would expect you to be a completely—an adversary in this instance; you lost $6.5 million. But I think you pointed out that you saw that everybody was trying to act in good faith, even you, you went to a table to sign a document when you went to a location or knew you were going to play a game.

    Mr. ARRINGTON. That is correct.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. So you left Mr. Poston operating—and again, I don't want to focus on one particular fact situation—Mr. Weinberg has a fact situation, but it points to the need for correcting this hand-in-glove relationship that this system has. You thought they were working on your behalf?

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Yes.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Then when we came to the point of trying to assess whether Mr. Poston or Mr. X or Mr. Y had been effective——
 Page 50       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. ARRINGTON. That is correct.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. You would have liked an opportunity where all can be heard in this arbitration process; is that right?

    Mr. ARRINGTON. That is correct. And also, Mr. Berthelsen referred to the fact that I am speaking purely off of feeling and not off of facts, it is inaccurate. That is not an accurate statement from Mr. Berthelsen. Because I firsthand experienced not being able to be able to be a part of a hearing that was held in Indianapolis. So there was no cross-examination. Carl Poston was not allowed to attend this hearing. So it is not strictly feeling that I am speaking on; there are some facts involved with the things that I am saying.

    With that being said, I am not saying that, you know, Carl Poston, you know, don't go through the process with him. I didn't have a problem and different things like that. I said merely as what is being stated today, that just make sure that the process is fair, because in that situation—you know, it is okay to say well, we do have that in our system, we do go through arbitration the way Mr. Berthelsen is saying. And if those things are in there, that is fine, but if they are not being exercised, then what good are they?

    Mr. CANNON. The gentlelady's time is expired.

    I ask unanimous consent to just ask one question to clarify the record. Hearing no objection.

 Page 51       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Mr. Berthelsen, do both parties have a right to object or to choose an arbitrator, or does the NFLPA choose the arbitrator and impose that on the negotiations?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. The regulations state that the NFLPA chooses the arbitrator. I think there is some confusion here because Mr. Arrington referred to a hearing, where he said he wasn't allowed to attend. The hearing hasn't taken place in this case yet. He is referring to a committee of people, players, fellow players who propose discipline in a meeting among themselves, discipline which, on the average, is reduced or vacated much more often by the arbitrator than it is upheld. The arbitrator is not a rubber stamp.

    Mr. CANNON. Thank you for that distinction. But as to the question of the arbitrator, I thought you said earlier that the national rules of arbitration apply and therefore there is some choice, but I take it there is no choice as to the arbitrator—for the players, it is only the choice of the NFLPA; is that correct?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. I am referring to the rules of the American Arbitration Association, which is the subject of the question. The AAA has different sets of rules for different kinds of situations. We use the labor arbitration rules. Those rules state that if the parties in the case have agreed to a selection process for an arbitrator, that agreement is to be enforced. When an agent applies to become an agent of the NFLPA, which legally they are, this is a regulatory system, they agree that their application becomes an agreement with the NFLPA to the regulations as they state. And that is the agreement of the——

    Mr. CANNON. I think there is some heavy handedness in the concerns raised by Mr. Delahunt, who is not here, but I appreciate that clarification and how that works.
 Page 52       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Just one quick one on your clarification.

    Mr. CANNON. Certainly.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. In that process that they sign onto, do they then commit themselves not to be able to subpoena or discover witnesses?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Absolutely not. There are subpoenas issued in virtually every case. For some unknown reason, Mr. Poston has chosen not to use that. But I get subpoenas signed by the arbitrator. Mr. Weinberg's counsel, his prior counsel, who hasn't pursued his appeal on his disciplinary case, sent me at least four subpoenas, one of which I filed a motion to limit, to quash.

    We provide documents all the time. And there is, again, it gets back to my frustration with the limited time we have that I am not able to correct what I think is a lot of inaccurate information.

    Mr. CANNON. We do hope that you note what is inaccurate and just inform us. This is not a heavy handed thing, we are just trying to figure out what is going on.

    Mr. Meehan, did you have some questions?

    Mr. MEEHAN. Yes.
 Page 53       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. CANNON. The gentleman from Massachusetts is recognized for 5 minutes.

    Mr. MEEHAN. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    And I don't know any of the parties involved, my interest is basically I follow the NFL, so I am interested in this. And I have to say, your testimony was excellent.

    When you were talking about the hustle and bustle of negotiating this contract, and you mentioned preparing for a game in Philadelphia——

    Mr. ARRINGTON. It was at home, it was here.

    Mr. MEEHAN. Against Philadelphia.

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Yes.

    Mr. MEEHAN. And then you mentioned other parts where you were at the Super Bowl orpreparing for the Pro Bowl——

    Mr. ARRINGTON. That is correct.

    Mr. MEEHAN. And I couldn't help but think that one of the reasons why agents have strict rules is because most players are in exactly your position. Preparing for an NFL game is a complicated thing, it requires full attention. Players are young, in some cases you—although I wouldn't say you are inexperienced now, you do very well, and you should think about running for Congress 1 day—but players really need to be protected, and that is one of the reasons that there are the regulations that there are.
 Page 54       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    And I always worry about players being taken advantage of by agents, and I think that is one of the things that I always, as a fan, want to see is protected. There are times when players negotiate their own contracts, and usually they could have made more money if they had somebody else negotiating for them. But in any event, I admire your loyalty to your agent as well.

    And Mr. Berthelsen, it is interesting because in this other case, Mr. Steve Weinberg, there were 15 players that testified or wanted to testify on behalf of him. Should the fact that a player doesn't blame his agent for negligence or malfeasance in representing a player affect whether or not there is a decision to discipline that player? And why or why not?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Any individual player who is a client of the agent, if he had a veto power, the only agents we could ever discipline would be those agents who have no clients. Players are very loyal people. I do arbitrations for players, that is what I spend most of my time at, and I do a good job for them, I think, but if I made a big mistake in a case, in an arbitration and I lost it, that player may well think that I am still the greatest guy in the world, but Gene Upshaw looks at the mistake I make, and if it is serious enough, he is going to say you are not going to do any more cases for the next year or somebody else is going to do them because he has a responsibility to the other players.

    And that is why we say we need a system where we have a committee of players who have no involvement in the particular situation to assess it.

    But one of the biggest misconceptions, inaccuracies of this case, what has been said today, what has been said otherwise, has been that there was a deadline that day for LaVar's contract, that therefore there had to be a leap of faith taken and oral representations had to be accepted. If Mr. Poston had called us, if he would have looked at the collective bargaining agreement we had, he would have seen there was no deadline that day. Anybody in the NFL knows that day was not a deadline. The next day was a deadline of sorts because the rule in question said the contract had to be done before the last game of the season. The last game of the season for Mr. Arrington was more than 24 hours after these things were being said.
 Page 55       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Now, we never said that his agent had to be here in Washington with him; we recognize that this happens all the time, it is done by fax machine. But what the evidence in the case will show is that there was a 3 1/2 hour period, beginning with the supposed deadline of 4 o'clock that Friday and ending almost 7 p.m. That night, where there were numerous exchanges of faxes between the Redskins and Mr. Poston's office, and on four separate occasions the very page in which the $6.5 million should have gone and the page where Mr. Poston said it should by putting something in the margin, he saw it 3 or 4 times——

    Mr. MEEHAN. How does the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association, how does that impact the rules that we are discussing?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. It has more impact on what an agent does than anything.

    Mr. MEEHAN. How though? You just negotiated a new contract with the NFL, how does that relate to rules?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Well, the basic elements of the deal are the players get a percentage of the gross revenues, about 60 percent of them. We take a very generous benefit package and we subtract it from that, and the rest of it is left over for salaries, and there is a cap. There are certain exceptions, a lot of complex rules. We have deadlines for contracts to be done. In this case, we have a rule that says that in order to renegotiate a contract by the end of the season, it must be done by the last regular season game. Literally that would mean they could be negotiating this contract in the fourth quarter. But an agent is expected to know that collective bargaining agreement; more than any other obligation, that is the one that is most paramount. And we have seminars with the agents every year where we emphasize the importance of the rules, and emphasize and reemphasize the importance of making sure that what you get for player negotiations is in the contract.
 Page 56       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. MEEHAN. This will be the last question. Let me ask you, has this arbitration system that we are talking about been challenged in court? I mean, certainly there must be cases? Are there cases, how many are there?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. Yes. Mr. Poston challenged it twice and he lost on both occasions, once in the Southern District of New York. Mr. Karcher said there is a case still pending, well, Mr. Poston's lawyer disagrees with him because he said that case went away when they lost their injunctive effort. The court in New York ruled against Mr. Poston. He tried to get an injunction based on the impartiality of the procedure, the judge rejected his claim saying that he had no likelihood of success on the merits. And that is a dispositive ruling of the court.

    He tried, when he was disciplined the last time, when the discipline was reduced by the arbitrator, Mr. Kaplan—in fact, it was reduced by 75 percent—he went into court before Judge Cacheris in Virginia, argued everything that he is arguing here today, and more, and Judge Cacheris ruled that our system was legal, that Mr. Kaplan as an arbitrator was someone that he had agreed to to arbitrate disputes, and he said in his decision that Mr. Kaplan was a regular arbitrator who had been accepted in other sports. But we have had a case in the District of Columbia that has blessed the system, one in Virginia, one in the Southern District of New York. We have had one in Los Angeles in the last year and a half, where Judge Lau in the Dave Dunn case said basically the same thing.

    We are batting a thousand when it comes to challenges in court. There haven't been many of them. And they have basically been two by Mr. Poston, one by Tank Black and one by David Dunn, but all people who had been disciplined and lost on prior occasions.
 Page 57       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. CANNON. The gentleman's time is expired.

    The gentlelady from Texas would like to ask a couple more questions, and so I ask unanimous consent that she be granted 2 minutes for those questions. And before you start that, without objection, Mr. Meehan, did you have more questions?

    Mr. MEEHAN. Maybe afterwards. I mean, I could talk for an hour on this. This is fascinating.

    Mr. WATT. We hope you won't.

    Mr. CANNON. Maybe you can submit those in writing or something like that.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I am with Marty Meehan, I could talk for 3 hours on this.

    Mr. MEEHAN. The real question is whether Mr. Poston could have gotten Ty Lauder re-signed with New England.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I hope when we leave this hearing—and I thank the distinguished gentleman from Massachusetts, my good friend, for his line of questioning—really will not be on A or B agent. I think the crux of this has to be how do we make this system work. And we have already found an Achilles Heel that I hope the NFLPA will adhere to and listen, even before legislative response may be pursued, and that is, that you have a system, yes, that agents buy into which says that you select the arbitrator, but who wouldn't buy into it because the only way you can work, you are a designee of the NFLPA, you can't work without getting that authority. I would agree to anything, there is a lot of money in this. So it is a patently built-in unfair system, and there is a hand in glove.
 Page 58       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    When you say that six or seven individuals dish out punishment, those six or seven individuals are—I respect them greatly, but it is my sense that they are hand in glove to a certain extent. And reason why I say that is we have been getting calls from the Retired Players Association about conflicts in their provisions that they have had.

    Let me just quickly say this; to answer the question about Mr. Poston in particular, it was when he contacted Congress that he was immediately suspended, because those particular scheduled days of meetings could have continued on so he would have had his day in court.

    Mr. Karcher, could I just simply ask you the question, what procedural safeguards should be required of, A, to ensure that the decertification proceeding are fundamentally fair to agents, players and NFLPA? And do we need to have discovery and subpoena powers that can be enforced and that can ultimately stand up in court? Because I don't understand why Mr. Weinberg's 15 players were not allowed to testify. Why couldn't Mr. Weinberg have the ability for discovery, calling his 15 players?

    Mr. KARCHER. It is a complicated question, I think; it would take me a long time to answer it.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. You can just say do they need discovery and subpoena powers?

    Mr. KARCHER. As I said in the initial statement, there are a lot of points here to the overall entire system that just needs to be looked at. I would say that Mr. Meehan made a great point that there is a lot of agent misconduct going on in this business. However—and I have written about agent misconduct, it takes place. And the union must look after the best interests of the players. However—and I have written on this issue—that the union, under the labor laws, has the power, if they wanted to, to start representing players, make it an option to have players be represented by the union, make it an option that they could. But they have chosen a system in which there are third-party agents involved. Now, if that is the system that is chosen, the question is, under that situation when they are not employees of the union, they are not under their control, they are not looking after him like Mr. Berthelsen said when he is working for the NFLPA, and they can see what he is doing on a daily basis, okay, there needs to be some sort of, I would think, minimum due process and fairness in a system when you have third-party agents, and that is a system that you want to have.
 Page 59       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    And I guess the question would be, why, in my mind, why is it so difficult to have a system of, like we talked about earlier, somebody had proposed where you have people strike arbitrators from a list and ultimately agree on one arbitrator. I mean, that is a typical situation in society where parties in equal bargaining agree to a contract that says that. The problem that you have in this situation, and it is unique, is that you have a third-party system where in order to represent players, you must agree to sign on the dotted line, and you must consent to that with no negotiation powers.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Thank you very much. I need to get to Mr. Friedman. And I would like to conclude, Mr. Arrington, on this whole idea of having witnesses.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. Ms. Jackson Lee, the answer to your question is yes. If the goal of the arbitration process is to get to the truth and have these grievances heard by an impartial arbitrator——

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. That is the key.

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. That is the key, that is the goal. Procedural safeguards, due process rights have to be implemented. You have to have discovery, you have to have an honest and fair exchange of documents. In the court system, the discovery is liberal, the discovery is broad, there is no harm in exchanging those documents. You have to get sworn statements.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. But you wouldn't mind it being more restrained on the arbitration system and as well modifying what the agent sign; we want to protect players, but modifying that agreement that says we select the arbitrator?
 Page 60       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. FRIEDMAN. Sure.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Arrington, with your daily dealings with agents——

    Mr. CANNON. Let me ask unanimous consent that the gentlelady be granted one more minute. Without objection, so ordered.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I thank the distinguished Chairman and the distinguished Ranking Member.

    Just in the course of your experience with the NFL and with the Players Union—which I know has many meritorious assets, many good things that it does—in your back and forth, your time with the Redskins and the 6.5 million, I know it came into arbitration, but just the idea of being able to call witnesses, both you and your agent and the Players Union or however it is, the Redskins, would that have been a fairer system?

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Well, I think, as has been alluded to, I think if a neutral arbitrator would have been able to have been brought on board, I don't have a problem going through the just process. It is not about trying to beat anything unlawfully or anything like that, or under the table, it is just be fair. You know, this has been I think 3 years now since this has happened, and to me the truth still remains the same. That is why I don't have to stay here and keep referring to my notes or different things that—to me, you know, if you are trying to cover things up, you ought to keep trying to go through pulling out facts and different things to try and justify what it is that you are saying. And I don't need to do that because I know exactly what happened. So all I ask is just to have a fair process, that is it, nothing more, nothing less, just a fair process.
 Page 61       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Berthelsen, I think you have heard everyone at the table say they just want a fair process. Why wouldn't the NFLPA adhere to the American arbitration system and reform its rules to allow the consensus of agent and opponent—or whoever it is—to have a consensus of who the arbitrator would be?

    Mr. BERTHELSEN. We do conform to that system. We do have hearings where there are witnesses and cross-examination——

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. Do you have a process where an agent can select as well? Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

    Mr. MEEHAN. Can I ask one final question?

    Mr. CANNON. I ask unanimous consent that the gentleman from Massachusetts be recognized for 1 minute. Without objection, so ordered.

    Mr. MEEHAN. I want to know how the rehab is coming and will you be ready to go next year?

    Mr. ARRINGTON. Hopefully I will.

    Mr. WATT. Can I ask unanimous consent for 1 minute, please?

    Mr. CANNON. Without objection, so ordered. The gentleman is recognized for 1 minute.
 Page 62       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Mr. WATT. Just to say a word to Mr. Berthelsen. As strongly as I have expressed my concern about the timing of this hearing, let me say this in public as I would say it to you in private if you asked me to. I think the timing of this hearing is terrible, but I hope that you are listening to what is being said. There is a high degree of interest—not always uniformly applied by this Committee—to fairness. And it is quite possible that the gentlelady who is being so aggressive about this may be sitting in this chair next year, where the Chairman is sitting. So I hope you have heard this concern about fairness, and I hope you will communicate it to whoever it is you are representing, the Players Association, the union, whoever it is in this mix.

    I personally am not a big fan of arbitration, period, but that is not what had hearing is about. I am not a big fan of injecting ourselves into cases on a case-by-case basis, but I hope you get the broader message here about fairness, and I hope you will talk to your clients about it, because this may be one of those situations that it would be better for you all to resolve and define fairness than have this Committee resolve it and define fairness. I yield back the rest of my time.

    Mr. CANNON. Let me associate myself with Mr. Watt's words. And I was going to say something very similar to that, and we will just let it be said by Mr. Watt.

    Before we adjourn, let me also just point out that this is the—we don't often use this hearing room, this is the first room that I had a hearing in. And as a young green freshman, Mr. Watt showed me great kindness here. So it is a matter of great warmth to be here and chair this as the last hearing that I chair. It may well be that Ms. Jackson Lee takes the gavel of this Committee, and I look forward to working with her. We have some wonderfully important issues, especially those that preceded this hearing, that I look forward to working with her on.
 Page 63       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    But I just did want to say that it has been a great pleasure to work with Mr. Watt. We have had some hard conflicts, but all—first of all, I cherish audible conflicts. People can yell at each other, that is not fun at all, but Mr. Watt is a worthy opponent. And on a couple of occasions over the past couple of years we have crossed swords, but we have had a very gracious, very thoughtful period together here, and it has been my honor and my privilege and my pleasure to have worked with you, Mr. Watt, over this period of time.

    Let me also say that staff has been wonderful, both majority staff—and Stephanie, you have been wonderful in awkward difficult situations. As my staff begins to see itself being paired down and working in your awkward position, we want you to know that you have been a great model, and I appreciate the many, many hours and the many problems that we have resolved together.

    This has been a great 4 years as a Committee, and we have done so many wonderful things. And whoever the Chair is, Mrs. Jackson Lee, if that is you, we look forward to that same kind of relationship. I can assure you that I will try to emulate, although poorly, the model of Mr. Watt. And I hope that we can actually make some progress on some of these issues that are not partisan. This is not a partisan issue today. This is not a Democrat or Republican issue, this is not union, non-union, this is about fairness. And I will say the hearing was much more interesting than I expected it to be.

    And again, I want to associate myself with what Mr. Watts said about why we are here and what ought to happen out of this hearing.

 Page 64       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    And with that, without objection, we will adjourn.

    Ms. JACKSON LEE. I echo and yield and thank both of you for your kindness. Thank you very much.

    Mr. CANNON. Adjourned.

    [Whereupon, at 12:37 p.m., the Subcommittee was adjourned.]


Material Submitted for the Hearing Record


    I thank the gentleman for yielding. Let me also thank you, Chairman Cannon for holding this important and informative hearing. I also thank the Ranking Member, Mr. Watt, for his cooperation. And I thank all the members of the subcommittee for allowing me to join you today.

    The purpose of the hearing is to examine the arbitration practices of the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). I am pleased to extend a warm welcome to each of the witnesses who will help us obtain a better understanding of those practices and how well or poorly they are serving the intended purpose of arbitration. The witnesses are:
 Page 65       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

 Mr. LaVar Arrington Arrington, an All-Pro linebacker for the Washington Redskins of the NFL and now a player with the New York Giants;

 Mr. Richard Berthelsen, the General Counsel of the NFLPA;

 Professor Richard Karcher of the Florida Coastal School of Law and an expert in the field of sports law; and

 Mr. Larry Friedman, Managing Director of the law firm of Friedman and Fieger, LLP, and an attorney who has represented NFLPA certified player agents in litigation against the NFLPA.

    The Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the union for its professional football players (NFLPA) recognizes the NFLPA as the exclusive bargaining agent. The CBA also gives the NFLPA the authority to regulate and discipline contract agents who represent NFL players in contract negotiations with respective franchises in the NFL. Under the CBA only agents certified by the NFLPA may negotiate player contracts.

    As I stated, the collective bargaining agreement authorizes the NFLPA to certify and discipline contract agents. But the NFLPA may not decertify an agent—an act akin to disbarring an attorney—without permitting the agent an opportunity to contest the proposed decertification to ''a neutral arbitrator pursuant to its agent regulation system.''

    One would think that a sanction as drastic, extreme, and draconian as decertification would trigger a legal process with all the procedural safeguards necessary to prevent an erroneous deprivation of a property interest and deter arbitrary or capricious decision-making.
 Page 66       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    I think all of us here would simply assume that before the NFLPA could decertify an agent and deprive him or her of the right to make a living in his or her chosen profession it would be required to afford the agent procedural due process, which, at a minimum, requires notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard before an impartial decisionmaker.

    One would think that the party seeking to deprive the agent of his license would bear the burden of proof, production, and persuasion which must be established by at least clear and convincing evidence introduced in accordance with established rules of evidence. And, of course, we would expect that the accused would be afforded the right of confrontation and compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor.

    But then I learned of a disturbing case involving Mr. Carl Poston, which indicates that these assumptions may be unwarranted when it comes to the arbitration processing involving the decertification of NFLPA contract agents. Mr. Poston is the contract agent for LaVar Arrington Arrington, one of the witnesses appearing before us today. He is also one of my constituents and the subject of an NFLPA decertification arbitration proceeding. Although the merits of that proceeding are not before the subcommittee, I think it useful to describe the factual background which prompted the NFLPA to institute decertification proceedings against Mr. Poston.


    Carl Poston has been a professional sports agent for more than 17 years. The father of three children, he was drawn to the business out of a desire to help professional athletes, particular football players, make good decisions concerning their careers, maximize their income during their playing years, and plan for a safe and secure post-playing career. Mr. Poston also holds four degrees—a mathematics degree, a law degree, a LLM (an advance law degree in taxation) and an MBA. He has developed a reputation as a smart and aggressive agent, who fights hard for his players, and zealously represents their interests.
 Page 67       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Since 2000, Mr. Poston has represented LaVar Arrington, the number two overall pick in 2000 NFL draft. He has tremendous respect for LaVar Arrington and at all times has looked out for his interest and represented LaVar Arrington with undivided loyalty. There are no allegations that Mr. Poston did anything to the contrary.


    In 2000, Mr. Poston was able to achieve an outstanding seven year contract for LaVar Arrington worth more than $50 million with several escalator provisions which could yield LaVar Arrington even more money and higher future salary cap values were created which placed the team under pressure for future salary cap renegotiation. Although LaVar Arrington was the second overall pick, his contract was the best contract in the entire draft class. Because of the size of LaVar Arrington's contract, and the various escalators, LaVar Arrington's contract had a major impact on the Redskins salary cap. On several occasions, LaVar Arrington, represented by Mr. Poston, restructured his contract so that the Redskins could make salary cap room and increase their cash flow to sign other players and strengthen the team.

    In late fall of 2003, Dan Snyder, the Redskins owner, called Mr. Poston and asked to restructure LaVar Arrington's contract—again. Snyder explained that he wanted to sign additional players, and that in order to do so, the Redskins needed to restructure LaVar Arrington's contract, and wanted to sign him to a long term contract making LaVar Arrington a ''lifetime'' Redskin. Snyder told Mr. Poston he would receive a call from Eric Schaffer, whom had recently been hired to be the salary cap manager for the Redskins. Mr. Poston called LaVar Arrington and after the call, and the two discussed strategy on how to approach the discussions with Schaffer.
 Page 68       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    On December 3 Schaffer met Mr. Poston in Houston and the two met for several hours discussing the Redskins salary cap and cash flow problems over the next few years and the impact LaVar Arrington had on both the cash flow and the salary cap. Schaffer explained that the Redskins wanted to stretch out the contract, make LaVar Arrington a lifetime Redskin and that the new deal had to be done by December 26, 2003 to maximize the salary cap effect for the team. Schaffer's proposal to Mr. Poston, however, was far short of the parameters that Mr. Poston and LaVar Arrington established for such a long term contract.

    Over the next twenty three days extensive negotiations took place that involved complex contractual issues. Despite these negotiations, the parties remained extremely far apart and it appeared unlikely that they would be able to reach a deal. As the December 26, 2003 deadline approached, the negotiations grew more intense, and continued on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The parties' positions grew closer, but there was still no deal. On the morning of December 26, 2006, Mr. Poston arrived at his office in Houston to make arrangements to fly to Washington in case a deal was struck before 9:00 a.m. He received a call from Schaffer, who refused a key demand in the negotiations—that LaVar Arrington receive a 2006 roster bonus of $6.5 million payable in 2006. Without this key provision Poston took the deal off the table and told Schaffer that they were out of time and the deal was dead.

    In the early afternoon, however, Schaffer called Poston and advised him that the Redskins would agree to both $6.5 million 2006 roster bonuses. At this point it was too late in the day for Mr. Poston to fly from Houston to Washington D.C. in time to make the deadline.

 Page 69       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC
    Mr. Poston called LaVar Arrington and told that the deal appeared to be back on. Unable to fly to Washington at that point, Poston and Schaffer worked over the telephone. Poston and Schaffer proceeded to negotiate the final terns, and at approximately 1:30 p.m., reached a deal. Schaffer promised to fax Mr. Poston the completed contract. Mr. Poston spoke to LaVar Arrington, who was concerned that he could not get to the Redskins' offices in time to sign. Mr. Poston told LaVar Arrington to go directly to Schaffer at Redskins Park expecting Schaffer to call Mr. Poston before LaVar Arrington signed the deal. Despite this promise, Schaffer never sent the entire contract. He called Mr. Poston and told him that the contact was taking longer than expected, and he would fax pages as they were being finished.

    Over the next several hours, Mr. Poston received portions of the contact which contained various errors which Mr. Poston called Schaffer to correct. Among the items that Mr. Poston observed were missing were the second $6.5 million 2006 roster bonus payable in 2006 and the $11.3 million ''non exercise fee'' with respect to certain options contained in the draft. Mr. Poston observed that the contract contained a 2006 roster bonus payable over three years, which was a sum of money that they had agreed to in the contact in addition to the $6.5 million 2006 roster bonus payable in 2006.

    Both roster bonuses were key in order to reach the 4-year total of $27.5 million. The other roster bonus was money that the parties had agreed to, but which Mr. Poston had agreed that Schaffer could structure as he wished. Mr. Poston pointed out to Schaffer that the non-exercise fee and the roster bonus were missing, and Schaffer assured him that they were being included in the document.

    Mr. Poston continued to wait for a complete and final contact to arrive, and called several times but could not reach either LaVar Arrington or Schaffer. Then, Schaffer finally took Mr. Poston's call. In that call, Schaffer told Mr. Poston that LaVar Arrington had already signed the contract and had left the office to check into the team hotel. Mr. Poston complained that he still had not received the entire contract. Mr. Poston told Schaffer that he should not have presented the contract to LaVar Arrington without having sent it to Mr. Poston first and then calling him so that Mr. Poston and LaVar Arrington could go over the contract.
 Page 70       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    Although Schaffer's conduct in presenting the contract to LaVar Arrington without having Mr. Poston's prior authorization was plainly inappropriate, Schaffer told Mr. Poston that given the looming salary cap deadline, he needed both LaVar Arrington's execution and Mr. Poston's certification immediately. Schaffer advised Mr. Poston that the second $6.5 Roster Bonus as well as the $11.3 had been added, and asked that Mr. Poston send signed certification pages. Schaffer then faxed to Mr. Poston the pages he needed Mr. Poston to initial and sign, and Mr. Poston initialed and signed those pages and faxed them back. Had Mr. Poston not done so, then, according to the Redskins, the entire deal would have fallen apart since a major consideration was the creation of salary cap room. Subsequently Mr. Poston has been advised that Schaffer's statement that the deadline was December 26, 2003 was incorrect and that the certification was not required to be submitted until the next day, December 27, 2003.

    Mr. Poston has said that he read all the drafts and partial draft pages that Schaffer had sent him and commented on them, corrected various mistakes, and indicated the second 2006 roster bonus and the $113 million non-exercise fee were not included. But according to Mr. Poston, he had little choice but to send back the certification as Schaffer had insisted, because if he had not, the deal that LaVar Arrington wanted and on which he had already signed off on, would have fallen apart.

    It was only after Mr. Poston had sent back the signature pages, that Schaffer sent a full copy of the document. In the document that Mr. Poston received from Schaffer he noticed that the signatures were attached to a version that had the $11.3 million non exercise fee interlined in handwriting, but had no interlineation for the second $6.5 million roster bonus payable in 2006.
 Page 71       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC


    Mr. Poston attempted to rectify the problem, and called Schaffer who refused to continue to speak to Mr. Poston without Redskins legal counsel. Schaffer called back with counsel for the Redskins, who claimed that the $6.5 million roster bonus payable in 2006 was not part of the deal. This made absolutely no sense in light of the negotiations between Mr. Poston and Schaffer, and was directly contrary to Schaffer's assurances that second 2006 roster bonus was indeed in the paperwork that LaVar Arrington had signed.

    Mr. Poston informed LaVar Arrington of the Redskin's position and also contacted the NFLPA to enlist its support and advice. Mr. Poston also helped LaVar Arrington hire legal counsel to protect LaVar Arrington's rights. On March 12, 2004, LaVar Arrington, through counsel, filed a non-injury grievance against the Redskins asking for (i) addition of the $6.5 million bonus and/or to (ii) void the contract. In the grievance, LaVar Arrington pointed out:

The Redskins' delay in drafting the language, combined with the deadline, created a situation where trust was paramount. The deal could not occur—without trust—a trust predicated on Arrington's desire to help the Redskins. The Redskins controlled the contract language and the time to draft it. It was not humanly possible for Poston to review the Redskins' version of the contract, compare it on a word-by-word basis with the agreement in principle, and advise Arrington by the 4:00 p.m. deadline. Poston and Arrington were required to trust the Redskins to accurately memorialize their agreement.

    On or about March 23, 2004, the NFLPA agreed to represent LaVar Arrington in the matter and retained the law firm of Dewey Ballantine. Mr. Poston had no involvement with the decision but he cooperated fully with the Dewey Ballantine attorneys, meeting with them on two occasions and providing them all information they requested, including his notes.
 Page 72       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    I am advised that Dewey Ballantine did not meet with LaVar Arrington until shortly before his non-injury grievance arbitration was scheduled to be heard. LaVar Arrington was not impressed with the performance of his legal representatives, and after the hearing called NFLPA President Gene Upshaw to complain. LaVar Arrington asked Mr. Upshaw who had hired the Dewy Ballantine firm, asked how could they be his lawyers if they had not even bothered to meet with him, the client, until shortly before the arbitration. LaVar Arrington told Gene Upshaw was going to hire his own attorney who could give him an objective view and did so shortly thereafter.

    After LaVar Arrington retained new counsel, the arbitration was adjourned for the purpose of pursuing settlement negotiations. Through the efforts of new counsel, a settlement was reached. Mr. Poston played an important role in achieving this settlement, including arranging a meeting with Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs to explain LaVar Arrington's feelings concerning the situation. Coach Gibbs helped prevail on the Redskins to reach an acceptable settlement with LaVar Arrington. The settlement provided that no one did anything wrong or improper and provided for a new contract for LaVar Arrington under which he could obtain an additional $4.85 million under certain conditions, including the right to void the contract if he made Pro Bowls in the next four years unless the Redskins paid LaVar Arrington an additional $3.25 million. The settlement agreement provides:

''This Agreement shall not be construed as an admission of liability or a finding of wrongdoing by any party.''

    As LaVar Arrington has put it, ''[m]y grievance against the Redskins has been settled on no-fault, win-win resolution.''
 Page 73       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC


    Based on the foregoing, it is clear that Mr. Poston did nothing wrong nor improper. So for me, two questions immediately come to the fore: (1) why would the NFLPA would institute a decertification proceeding against Mr. Poston; and (2) as the Chairman rightly indicates, (a) whether the arbitration procedures employed by the NFLPA are fair; (b) whether they ensure a neutral arbitrator; (c) whether adequate opportunity for judicial review exists; and (d) whether the procedures comport with the intent underlying the Federal Arbitration Act and, if not, what might be a proper legislative response.

    Mr. Chairman, let me thank you again for convening this hearing, which I hope will be the first of several. The playing career of the typical professional football, baseball, hockey, or basketball player is less than ten years, at which time the athlete in most instances is still under 35 years of age with a remaining working life of at least 30 years.

    It is therefore important for Congress to understand whether these professional athletes are being well prepared to lead productive lives in the global economy at the conclusion of their playing careers. That is why, in my view, it would be useful also to examine examination of the effectiveness of the relationship between professional athletes, the representatives that represent players in collective bargaining, the sports agents who represent the individual interests of players, and the professional sports team which employ them.

    The Congress' paramount concern should be ensuring that the financial and professional interests of professional athletes are being well served by those who owe them a fiduciary duty of loyalty and care. I believe that professional athletes who are poorly served by their player representatives, agents, or the teams that employ them are much more susceptible to temptations such as the false lure of performance enhancing drugs.
 Page 74       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC

    I am looking forward to hearing from the witness and considering their responses to the subcommittee's questions.

    Thank you. I yield the balance of my time.


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]
 Page 75       PREV PAGE       TOP OF DOC


[Note: Image(s) not available in this format. See PDF version of this file for complete hearing record.]