Amid the lingering concern that the NFL Players Association has a significant (but not unusual, as unions go) conflict of interest as it relates to the representation of Dolphins tackle Jonathan Martin and the teammates he has accused of wrongdoing, another potential conflict of interest has been flagged.
Via Chris Persons of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, lawyer David Cornwell may have a conflict of interest as it relates to his representation of Martin and Cornwell’s role as executive director of the NFL Coaches Association.
Writes Perkins: “It’s tough to reconcile Cornwell looking out for Martin’s interests as well as the interests of Dolphins assistant coaches, some of whom could be responsible for fostering what Martin claims to be a hostile work environment.”
Cornwell has addressed the situation via a statement that he has released to the media.
“This concern was addressed in the earliest stages of my involvement in this matter,” Cornwell said. “Although I don not serve as a lawyer in my capacity as the Executive Director of the NFLCA, as soon as it appeared that coaches’ interest could be implicated in this matter, I worked with members of our executive committee to develop a sensible process to ensure that no coach’s interests would be compromised by my representation of Jonathan as his lawyer. Both the executive committee and Jonathan are comfortable with the arrangement.”
There’s another reason Cornwell didn’t mention. The NFLCA isn’t a union; thus, the NFLCA won’t have the same role if/when coaches face discipline as the NFLPA does if/when players face discipline.
Cornwell’s comfort in serving both roles possibly speaks to a more subtle point. Martin’s concerns trace not to the coaches, but to the players.
Regardless, both Martin and the NFLCA are comfortable with Cornwell’s dual role. Unless and until Cornwell would be representing legal interests of Martin that clash with Cornwell’s legal interests of any coaches, it’s a non-issue.