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03/28/91 PRO-FOOTBALL v. DISTRICT COLUMBIA

March 28, 1991

PRO-FOOTBALL, INC., ET AL., PETITIONERS
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA DEPARTMENT OF EMPLOYMENT SERVICES, (WORKERS' COMPENSATION), RESPONDENT. STUART ANDERSON, ET AL., INTERVENORS



On Petition for Review of a Decision of the District of Columbia Department of Employment Services

Rogers, Chief Judge. Schwelb and Farrell, Associate Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schwelb

In this case we consider the consolidated claims of fourteen *fn1 former Washington Redskins professional football players for workers' compensation benefits as a result of injuries sustained in the course of their often heroic but always perilous employment. Pro-Football, Inc., which is the corporate name under which the Redskins trade, has asked us to review a decision by the Director of the Department of Employment Services (DOES) holding that the players' employment was principally localized in the District of Columbia, and that the players may therefore invoke the provisions of the District's Workers' Compensation Act (WCA), D.C. Code §§ 36-301, -345 (1988). Upon consideration of the entire record, we are satisfied that as to eleven of the claims, the Director's factual findings are supported by reliable, probative and substantial evidence and that his Conclusions of law flow rationally from those findings. See Eilers v. District of Columbia Bureau of Motor Vehicles Servs., 583 A.2d 677, 683 (D.C. 1990). Accordingly, we affirm as to those eleven. We remand for further proceedings as to the remaining four.

I

The parties in this case are sharply at odds with one another regarding the "ultimate" facts, but the "evidentiary" facts are largely undisputed. The Redskins compete in the National Football League (NFL). They play all of their home games at Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Stadium in Washington, D.C. The stadium, which accommodates 55,000 spectators, is leased from the District of Columbia Armory Board, a quasi-governmental agency, pursuant to the terms of a 30-year lease.

Each season, the Redskins play sixteen regular season games, eight at home and eight on the road. The team also plays a few pre-season exhibition games each year, at least one of them at RFK Stadium. If the Redskins advance to the NFL playoffs, they may play one or more post-season games at home, depending on whether they earn home field advantage. Road games are played at various other stadiums across the country. Obviously, the team plays substantially more games in the District of Columbia than in any other jurisdiction.

Robert C. (Bobby) Mitchell, a Redskin great of yesteryear who now serves as the team's assistant general manager, testified to the obvious when he described the Washington Redskins as a business whose primary purpose is to make money. In 1986, approximately 98 percent of the club's revenue was derived from ticket sales and associated amounts generated by television, two-thirds from games at RFK Stadium and the remaining one-third from road games.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL Players Association and the league's Management Council provides that in order to be eligible for compensation under the NFL Player Contract, a player must be on the active roster during the regular season. In other words, he receives his salary only for regular season games. Although players are also required to participate in pre-season games and practices, they receive per diem pay rather than their contractual salary. Eligibility for bonuses and other benefits is also linked to regular season play.

From mid-July to late August of each year, the Redskins train at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Thereafter, during the pre-season and regular season, the team's training facility is at Redskin Park, which is located near Dulles Airport in Virginia. The players spend approximately eight hours a day, five days a week, at Redskin Park. They come to RFK Stadium only on days when there is a home game, and then only for a few hours. It is undisputed that the amount of time spent by each player in Virginia substantially exceeds the amount spent in the District. Except for promotions, however, the Redskins generate no income in Virginia.

In response to questions by counsel for one of the players, Bobby Mitchell acknowledged that "the principal service for which [a player] is hired is to play regularly scheduled games to make money. That is why they hire a player." *fn2 Norman Jenkins, attorney for the NFL Management Council, likewise acknowledged that the principal performance for which a player is put under contract is to play for the team during the sixteen-week regular season.

The fourteen players whose claims have been consolidated in this appeal include four -- Gerald Bullitt, Michael Newton, Jeffrey Rosen and Troy Thomas -- who never played a game at RFK Stadium. All of the other claimants played games for the Redskins, both at RFK and on the road. *fn3

None of the claimants lived in Washington, D.C. while employed by the Redskins. Their various injuries were sustained at different times and in different places. Most or all of the players signed their contracts outside the District. Each had a one-year or multi-year NFL Player contract with the Redskins. Section 23 of the Contract states that "this contract is made under and shall be governed by the laws of the District of Columbia."

II

In most of these cases, *fn4 the employer denied coverage on the ground that the player's employment was not principally localized in the District of Columbia, as required by D.C. Code § 36-303(a) (1988). *fn5 Administrative hearings were held before several DOES hearing examiners, each of whom held that the player's claim was covered. On July 7, 1989, the Director issued a decision applicable to ...


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