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BLACK v. NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE PLAYERS ASS'N

February 2, 2000

WILLIAM BLACK AND PROFESSIONAL MANAGEMENT, INC., PLAINTIFFS,
V.
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE PLAYERS ASSOCIATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robertson, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

William Black claims that the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) unlawfully initiated disciplinary proceedings against him, affecting his livelihood as a player agent. NFLPA moves for summary judgment.*fn1 Plaintiff opposes that motion and moves for leave to amend. Plaintiff will be permitted to take discovery on his claim of discrimination under 42 U.S.C. § 1981, but defendant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the claims of tortious interference and violation of the Federal Arbitration Act. Leave to file new claims of defamation and trade disparagement will de denied. The reasons for those rulings are set forth below.

Background

The following facts are drawn primarily from the parties' LCvR 7.1(h) statements, but are supplemented as needed by subsequent filings. They are undisputed.

NFLPA is the exclusive collective bargaining representative of NFL players pursuant to Section 9(a) of the National Labor Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. § 159(a). NFLPA nevertheless permits individual agents, or "contract advisors," to represent individual players in negotiations with NFL Clubs. NFLPA "certifies" contract advisors pursuant to a set of regulations. Those regulations set forth a code of conduct for contract advisors, and require that issues regarding the activities of contract advisors be resolved by arbitration.

Mr. Black was first certified as a NFLPA contract advisor in March 1995. He submitted a sworn application to continue his certification on September 9, 1998. The application contained this statement:

In submitting this Application, I agree to comply with and be bound by these Regulations . . . I agree that if I am denied certification or if subsequent to obtaining certification it is revoked or suspended pursuant to the Regulations, the exclusive method for challenging any such action is through the arbitration procedure set forth in the Regulations. In consideration for the opportunity to obtain certification and in consideration of NFLPA's time and expense incurred in the processing of this application for such certification, I further agree that this Application and the Certification, if one is issued to me, along with the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors shall constitute a contract between NFLPA and myself.

In May 1999, Mr. Black received a disciplinary complaint from NFLPA's Disciplinary Committee.*fn2 He commenced this action a month later, asserting that the disciplinary complaint was the product of an antitrust conspiracy and a secondary boycott, in violation of the Sherman Antitrust Act and the National Labor Relations Act, and that the arbitration system established by the regulations violates the Federal Arbitration Act. Mr. Black's motion for a temporary restraining order was denied on June 22, 1999 by Judge Hogan, and Mr. Black filed an answer to the disciplinary complaint on July 6, 1999.

On July 27, 1999, the Disciplinary Committee issued a proposed ruling revoking Mr. Black's contract advisor certification for a minimum of three years. The regulations provide that Mr. Black may challenge the proposed ruling only by taking the matter to arbitration before an arbitrator selected by NFLPA — in this case, Roger P. Kaplan, Esq.

On July 29, 1999, Mr. Black filed an amended complaint. This first amended complaint jettisons the antitrust and secondary boycott claims and adds two new claims: that NFLPA's initiation of the disciplinary proceedings was based on race discrimination in violation of Section 1981; and that NFLPA tortiously interfered with Mr. Black's business relations (and those of his corporate entity Professional Management, Inc.) by invoking disciplinary action. Mr. Black continues to claim that the arbitration process established by the regulations is illegal under the FAA.

Now before the Court are NFLPA's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment on all three counts in plaintiffs' first amended complaint, and plaintiffs' motion for leave to file a second amended complaint that would add claims of defamation and trade disparagement.

Analysis

A. Section 1981 Claim

Mr. Black asserts that NFLPA deprived him and his company of full enjoyment of their contractual relationship with NFLPA in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. He asserts that three white agents subjected to disciplinary action by the NFLPA — Joel Segal, Jeffrey ...


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