[Editor’s note: Throughout the past six days, I’ve had multiple conversations and other communications regarding a meeting that occurred on Monday, March 11 between a group of agents and a group of players, in conjunction with the NFLPA’s annual meeting. I spent roughly an hour earlier today writing a story about the meeting. NFLPA Executive Committee member Richard Sherman has taken issue with my characterization of the meeting and the memo issued to all agents by the NFLPA after the meeting, which suggests that the meeting did not go well. Thus, I have decided to post the entire memo, so that there is no misunderstanding. The full memo, with no edits or additions or changes, appears below.]
Dear Contract Advisors,
Congratulations and good luck to all of you during the start of this busy free agency period. In the first 48 hours of free agency, we have seen 79 deals totaling $1.7 billion dollars with $842 million guaranteed. We would also like to remind you that we are here for you and your clients to provide you with any information or counsel as you negotiate free agent deals with NFL clubs. Also, we are in the third-year of the 89% cash spending minimum period, and you should feel free to reach out to us for updates on where each of the clubs stand relative to that CBA requirement. We will be posting updates on social media (@NFLPA) about where teams stand in coming days.
As a continuation of the agent community’s request for more information and collaboration, we wanted to provide a recap of our NFLPA Board of Player Rep Meetings that recently concluded.
For three days, we had nearly 200 NFL players in Miami — our largest turnout ever — for intense discussions about how our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is working, what we may want to change, how to maximize our benefits, and most importantly, how we prepare for the expiration of this current deal in March of 2021. The Executive Committee and Board learned about the history of the CBA, the Lockout in 2011, as well as the major economic portions of the CBA and its operation. We met seven (7) hours a day for three (3) full days so that the players fully understand their options as we prepare for the expiration of the current CBA.
Players are especially serious about preparing for the next round of labor negotiations, and our internal counsel and external counsel were included in all discussions. The meetings also included an auxiliary session where we invited a group of agents to interact with Board members and members of our Executive Committee. The attending agents were: Peter Schaffer, Christina Phillips, Jayson Chayut, Steve Caric, Pat Dye Jr., and Adisa Bakari. Approximately sixty (60) players attended that auxiliary meeting.
Players took to heart the call by this agent group to have a better working relationship and prepare for upcoming labor talks to make greater gains for players. It was in this spirit that they welcomed contract advisors to share their ideas on how we can work better together. During the meeting Peter Schaffer asserted that he represents the bulk – if not all – agents. As a follow- up to the small agent meeting in Indianapolis, players were keenly interested in hearing from the agents about their ideas to prepare for a work stoppage. While the agents who attended the auxiliary session mentioned educating players on the need to save, they offered no specific commitments to create savings plans or engage in specific debt reduction strategies.
The agents in the auxiliary session engaged in some discussion of their positions on certain CBA items like the funding rule and the franchise tags and seemed to be under an impression that those issues were not equally important to players. However, as we have done in previous years, those issues as well as other important issues had been discussed in-depth by players during their sessions throughout the three days of Rep Meetings. Like the agents, we agree that those are items that we would all like to improve and/or change. However, at the auxiliary session, players were dismayed by the lack of any input by the agents on “real world” options when the Owners are likely to push back strongly on changes to these and other economic and restriction issues. For example, there was no discussion on how we should collectively build leverage in order to substantially strengthen players’ ability to effectuate these changes and gains, and/or their plans to prepare players for a lockout or a strike. Rather, at times, the session turned into a lecture on why players “should” believe that these issues are important and almost suggesting that they had the unilateral ability to simply change them. Accordingly, there was a general feeling among the players that the agents came into the session grossly underestimating our players’ understanding of complex CBA/negotiating issues; many of the agents’ remarks focused on emphasizing their value in the CBA negotiation process, and thus the session was clearly not as productive as it could have been.
There was a portion of the meeting when one agent made an unfortunate remark that many players interpreted as extremely condescending, and during a rather heated exchange about the “roles” of the agents in this business, other agents specifically and personally targeted an Executive Committee member about the contract that he signed. The Player leaderships does not know which agents are members of Mr. Schaffer’s representational group, and it may become important that current players know who these agents are in light of some of the comments and information learned during the meeting (including the existence of a derogatory email extolling agents to publicly attack a current player and his decision to represent himself).
The agents also raised their opinion that there is a need to eliminate “inducements” – referring to payments by some agents to some entry level players. The agents did not take the opportunity to raise:
• agents’ fees;
• any ongoing concerns of the 1.5% default fee on the SRA; or
• the efforts of agents regarding continuing education.
One of the items of business that our player leadership implemented during the resolutions portion of Rep Meeting was passage of a resolution regarding “inducements” that agents wanted us to consider. We would like feedback from all agents regarding this issue, and a copy of that resolution is attached.
Following the auxiliary meeting, every member of the NFLPA Executive Committee voted to share the following statement:
“We do believe that agents can play an important role in helping to prepare our men for issues that matter to us, and we will continue to seek input, as we have in the past. We want to emphasize that contract advisors are, above all else, agents of this Player’s Union, and all agents owe a fiduciary duty to their clients and the collective body of players. The invitation extended to the agents to attend the auxiliary meeting was done in the hope of building better relationships and to provide a constructive conversation as we prepare for the expiration of the CBA. However, both the tone and specific statements by some of the agents showed an overall lack of understanding of the role of the elected player leadership and at times specifically demonstrated a lack of respect for the rights of players to represent themselves if they so choose.”