There are two sides to every story. That is apparently true with regard to a meeting held between roughly sixty National Football League players and six certified Contract Advisors a couple of weeks ago in Key Biscayne, Florida.
As I reported on March 16, the NFL Players Association had followed up the meeting attended by certified agents Peter Schaffer, Christina Phillips, Jayson Chayut, Steve Caric, Pat Dye Jr., and Adisa Bakari with a memorandum calling the session one that “was clearly not as productive as it could have been” and stated that “the agents came into the session grossly underestimating our players’ understanding of complex CBA/negotiating issues.”
The NFLPA memorandum went on to state that both the tone and specific statements by some of the agents demonstrated a lack of respect for the rights of players to represent themselves if they so choose. However, a long statement disseminated by veteran agent Peter Schaffer, who leads a group of agents lobbying for changes to how they are regulated by the union, states otherwise.
On March 24, Schaffer wrote to roughly 100 certified NFLPA Contract Advisors with an interest in focusing on the positives that came out of the meeting that was focal point of the NFLPA memorandum. He viewed the passing of a resolution to place a cap on the amount of money that agents can recover from any amount advanced to players for pre-draft training costs or payment of any other monies to be a big win for the group.
He added, "If taking a few body blows results in legislation which will make our profession better, stronger, sustainable and more professional for the players of the NFL, then it is all worth it."
Schaffer’s reaction to the NFLPA’s memorandum was to deduce that the union is counting on highlighting differences within the agent community to further divide agents. In response, Schaffer is asking those agents within his group to work together, stay united and solid.
"It is important for the NFLPA to know that Agents working together are not a threat to them, rather they should welcome it and embrace our ideas of improving the profession, raising the levels, ethics and standards of the industry and increasing the quality of representation for all NFL players." -Peter Schaffer
The email also defended against the NFLPA’s assertion that the group of six agents was not prepared to tackle issues presented at the meeting. They had a game plan and put together a five page agenda in advance of the meeting, which included the group’s “asks” that highlighted publicizing the terms of the Standard Representation Agreements that players sign with agents, going back to the standard 3% agent fee from the current 1.5% language and the need for a standard addendum that would eliminate inducements for players to sign with particular agents.
Schaffer acknowledged that the dialogue became somewhat adversarial when certain players expressed displeasure with some agents criticizing players who previously chose to represent themselves in team contract negotiations. He said that there was a sincere effort to refrain from engaging in “negative debates” and to move the discussion back to how players and agents could help each other.
He also pushed back on the NFLPA’s claim that the agents offered no specific commitments to create savings plans or engage in specific debt reduction strategies.
"We went through our detailed plan . We also discussed the need, with the assistance of the NFLPA, to educate all players, especially the young players, as to the history of the NFLPA, its value and the importance of solidarity to union etc. There were no questions from the players on this and we moved on."
The tone of Schaffer’s email started and ended very differently from the NFLPA’s memorandum of recent past. Schaffer called his group’s involvement at the NFLPA meeting a “great first step,” which included the passing of legislation intended to curb inducements. He also basically said that it served as a major learning moment for his group.
"We also learned we have a long way to go as evidenced by the email to get and attain the recognition and appreciation from our own players for the amazing, dedicated and daily work we do for the rank and file of the NFL. We saw firsthand how some very vocal players can control a room and nearly turn it into a rumble. Yet we also saw how players listen to the agents and value their opinion by the mere fact the reps passed the resolutions we proposed." -Peter Schaffer
Schaffer seems prepared to move on from the NFLPA’s memorandum, but stressed that his group needs to make sure that “no one divides and conquers us.” He noted that if players, agents and the NFLPA are not all together in 2020-21, then they will all be in trouble along with the industry at large.
"The players are passionate, and most want to work with the agent community, including some on the executive committee. We just need to let them know that we are solid, just as passionate and unified in our profession and association and we do want to work with them." -Peter Schaffer