The NFL Players Association doesn’t simply represent players in their employment with the NFL. The union also regulates those who represent players in their individual contract negotiations. One former player contends that the NFLPA failed to properly regulate those who represent players in their individual contract negotiations.
Receiver Richard Goodman, who bounced on and off the San Diego roster from 2010 through September 2013, accuses the NFLPA of negligence, gross negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty in connection with the regulation of agent Richard Burnoski. Specifically, Goodman claims that the NFLPA failed to suspend Burnoski or to revoke his certification for failing to pay agent dues and/or to maintain liability insurance.
The complaint, a copy of which PFT has obtained, contends that Burnoski borrowed $25,000 in Goodman’s name in January 2010, forging Goodman’s signature and then failing to pay the money back. Goodman was sued, and he claims Burnoski assured Goodman that the matter had been resolved. Goodman also contends that, in reality, Burnoski had done nothing.
The end result was a default judgment against Goodman in excess of $47,000, collected via garnishment of his wages. Efforts to vacate the judgment resulted in more than $13,000 in fees and additional expenses.
Goodman tried to obtain compensation for his losses via Burnoski’s liability insurance policy, but Goodman learned in December 2014 that Burnoski didn’t pay his union dues in 2010 or renew his liability insurance.
The sequence of events likely will be crucial in this case, since Goodman claims that he hired Burnoski in reliance on the online database that identifies which agents are certified by the NFLPA to represent players in their negotiations with specific teams. It’s possible Burnoski was in good standing at the time Goodman checked the online database (assuming the online database was actually even checked), and that Burnoski thereafter fell out of compliance.
A separate issue in the litigation will be whether and to what extent the NFLPA has an affirmative duty to notify players represented by an agent who fails to pay his dues and/or neglects to maintain his liability insurance policy — and whether the NFLPA actually did provide that notice to Goodman. Goodman claims he received no such information, and that he would have switched agents if he’d known that Burnoski’s insurance coverage had lapsed.
After January 25, 2010, it may not have mattered. The allegedly forged loan documents were signed that day, only a few weeks after the completion of Goodman’s college career at Florida State. The loan documents, which were attached to the complaint, show that Burnoski co-signed the loan with Goodman.
Given the timing of the loan, a key question will be whether Goodman’s name was actually forged. It’s possible that the loan was secured so that Goodman would have some cash between the end of his college career and the 2010 draft, and that Goodman did indeed sign the documents.
A separate question will be whether the liability insurance that NFLPA-certified agents must carry would even cover the behavior in which Burnoski allegedly engaged. Goodman accuses Burnoski of engaging not in garden-variety malpractice but intentional and deliberate fraud.
Of course, Burnoski later assured Goodman that the lawsuit had been taken care of, a separate blunder that prevented Goodman from having a chance to properly defend himself against the claim that he owed money for the loan.
Ultimately, the case against the NFLPA initially will hinge on whether Goodman can show that he didn’t sign for the loan, especially since the documents were signed at a time in Goodman’s football career during which it would have been logical for the player to be seeking enough cash to carry him from the end of his college football career to the arrival of his first NFL paycheck.