By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 24, 2006
A dispute between the NFL Players Association and one of the league's most high-profile agents has landed in federal court. Carl Poston, the agent for former Washington Redskins linebacker LaVar Arrington and a host of star players, filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York against the NFLPA on Monday, claiming that the two-year suspension the union recommended against him three weeks ago should be overturned. The suit says Poston is entitled to a neutral arbitrator for his appeal.
The union's eight-member disciplinary board on March 3 found Poston to have been negligent in negotiating a contract Arrington signed with the Redskins in 2003. The union alleged in a five-count complaint in February that Poston had signed the contract without ensuring it contained a $6.5 million bonus clause that Arrington said he and the Redskins had agreed upon. The contract did not contain the clause.
The NFLPA also accused Poston of not cooperating when it investigated the dispute between the Redskins and Arrington over the bonus clause, which became a major source of tension between the player and the team and was a main reason Arrington's relationship with the Redskins soured. After a hearing on Feb. 22, the disciplinary board recommended Poston be suspended for two years.
In response, Poston's attorneys did not just appeal, but filed a federal suit, claiming he was denied due process.
"What we'd like is what little due process under these rules is due to our client," said Paul Aloe, one of Arrington's attorneys. "It isn't rare that we chose this option. What's rare is that Carl Poston faces a two-year suspension when his client is adamant that his agent did nothing wrong. I think that's extraordinary. That's what's rare."
Should the case go to court and a judge rule in favor of Poston, the NFLPA could be forced to reconsider its disciplinary model at a time when the union has made it clear it wants to be aggressive in regulating player agents.
Richard Berthelsen, the general counsel for the NFLPA, said he was not surprised that Poston took this course of legal action. Berthelsen said the union's agent-disciplining procedures have been challenged in court twice before, once by Poston.
"I guess it amounts to a legal challenge to our procedures. Our process has been upheld by courts on numerous times in the past and we expect it will be the same in this instance," Berthelsen said. "We've seen it before from Mr. Poston and he's failed in challenging our procedures. When someone applies to be certified by us, they agree to be bound by our regulations and the procedures contained in those. He's agreed to those procedures. They are legally binding, and now he's trying to get out of the deal he made."
Poston is one of the league's better-known agents, representing such big-name players as Atlanta safety Lawyer Milloy, San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman, free agent cornerback Ty Law and Arrington, who has publicly defended him during this process.