The final segment of Friday’s all-CBA edition of ProFootballTalk Live featured a visit from sports lawyer David Cornwell, who was a finalist for the job of NFLPA executive director in 2009. Cornwell helped us break down a variety of complex issues that would arise during a lockout, including possibly political pressure (he thinks it would be a mistake), the decertification process, and the legal battles that would ensue.
Near the end of the segment, in response to a question regarding the disappearance of the league’s drug-testing policies during a lockout, Cornwell explained that decertification also would end the union’s jurisdiction over agents.
“I represent agents in disciplinary matters with the players association,” Cornwell said. “My phone’s been ringing off the hook to figure out, you know, are the agreements with players still in effect? And are the rules about other agents tampering with my clients still in effect?”
Decertification would have several specific consequences. As Cornwell mentioned, NFLPA rules regarding tampering would evaporate, possibly replaced by state laws regarding tortious interference with business interests. Agents on suspension, like Gary Wichard, would no longer be on suspension. The “Junior Rule,” which prohibits agents from contacting college players fewer than three years removed from high school, would disappear. And even guys who have been run out of the business, like Josh Luchs (who spilled the beans about paying players to Sports Illustrated), could get back in. Speaking of paying players, agents could pay players without facing any professional sanction. (In some states, however, it’s illegal.)
Heck, anyone could become an agent since there would be no body in place with the legal ability to guard the gate.
And to those of you thinking that it wouldn’t matter because no business would be done during a lockout, if the union’s decertify-and-sue plan works, football will continue until the eventual antitrust lawsuit is resolved. Thus, players will need to be represented, and there will be no one regulating and certifying agents.
Though it’s more than likely that the union will reconstitute at some point in the future and clean up the agent business, the NFLPA can’t say that now, since it would strengthen the NFL’s argument that decertification is a sham, aimed only at leveraging the best possible deal.
Which, of course, it is.
Either way, one of the unintended consequences of the union’s plan will be the removal of the leashes from every current, former, suspended, and prospective agent.