As the first hearing in the high-stakes antitrust lawsuit filed on behalf of all players against every team approaches, the man whose name appears at the top of the stack of the ten named plaintiffs could be taking a hit to his off-field business interests.
Ian Rapoport of the Boston Herald explores whether and to what extent the involvement of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the case of Tom Brady et al. v. National Football League et al. will cause potential corporate partners to shy away from the three-time Super Bowl winner.
“This dispute is going to, if it goes on much further, tar everyone involved with it,” sports business expert Marc Ganis told Rapoport. “And his name being first and foremost on what may turn out to be a divisive action is not a positive for him.”
But the move, as another expert told Rapoport, gives Brady “street cred” among his peers — something that may or may not diminish the perception that he whines to officials for roughing-the-passer calls, and often gets them.
Though, as Rapoport points out, the presence of Hall of Fame defensive end Reggie White’s name at the outset of the first antitrust lawsuit filed by a decertified NFLPA against the league in the early 1990s didn’t impact White’s career on or off the field, that case was pursued under far different circumstances. The 1987 strike had failed and the players were looking for a way to force the NFL to expand free agency. The lawsuit did nothing to disrupt the game, and in the end it helped make the NFL far more interesting, unlocking a true hot stove league in the offseason and making following the NFL a 12-month-per-year endeavor.
The Brady case, in contrast, was filed virtually simultaneously with the launch of the current work stoppage. And if the Brady case is pushed aggressively to trial and if the players win on all points, the NFL would be prevented from placing any restrictions on free agency — and the league possibly would be forced to disband the college draft.
So, basically, Brady could be directly responsible for killing the event that helped place a giant chip on his shoulder when he slid all the way to pick No. 199 in 2000. And if, in the end, the case produces significant negative changes to the game of pro football like the death of the draft, everyone associated with it will suffer a P.R. hit, especially the ones who are perceived as the leaders of the charge.