James Dickey of Sudbury, who has spent the past few years filing lawsuits against city officials who demand he do something about his fire-ravaged, rat-infested property at 97 Mt. Ida Rd. in Dorchester, this week lost his legal battle - for now - against the NFL and the NFL Players Association over the union's refusal to let him try to be a player's agent any longer.
US District Court Judge Indira Talwani dismissed his $850-million federal anti-trust suit, saying she agreed with the league and the union that Dickey, who acted as his own lawyer, failed to "state a claim" or adequately show how he had been injured by their actions or had legal grounds for his suit.
The union had agreed to let Dickey become an official player's agent in 2007 and 2008 - but under a rule in the union's overall contract with the league that any agent who actually failed to sign up an agent within three years would be dropped. He got recertified as an agent, but was again dropped in 2016 for failing to get any players willing to use him.
Dickey then sued, charging the league and union had conspired to keep little guys like him out of the action even as they let more established agents skirt the rules.
In her ruling dismissing his case, Talwani writes there is no anti-trust illegality because unions have exemptions from federal anti-trust laws, and that a union seeking to represent large groups of workers are just not the same as companies conspiring to reduce competition. The union, she wrote, was within its rights to set rules for such things as who can represent its players.
By allowing agents to represent individual players, the NFLPA delegates some of its responsibilities as the exclusive representative of NFL players. Requirements and restrictions that the NFLPA imposes on its agents are designed to ensure that those to whom the union delegates these responsibilities meet certain standards. These include, for example, regulations designed to ensure agents' knowledge of and ability to faithfully apply the CBA [collective bargaining agreement], protect against misconduct, and prevent the charging of excessive fees. The Regulations expressly state that their purpose is “to help assure that the Contract Advisor will provide effective representation at fair, reasonable, and uniformly applicable rates to those individual players the Contract Advisor represents.” NFLPA Contract Advisor Regulations § 3. The Three Year Rule is an integral part of these standards, as it requires agents to demonstrate their qualifications to represent NFLPA members by either (1) successfully negotiating at least one contract or (2) obtaining recertification. In these ways, the Regulations and Three Year Rule contained therein are “clearly designed to promote the union's legitimate self-interest.” H.A. Artists, 451 U.S. at 721; see also Collins v. Nat'l Basketball Players Ass'n, 850 F. Supp. 1468, 1477 (D. Colo. 1991) (restrictions governing sports agents in professional basketball furthered union's self-interest).
She also rejected Dickey's argument that a collective bargaining agreement between the union and the league, which references the agent issue, is a violation of an anti-trust rulings that bar unions from "combining" with a non-union entity, writing that courts have long granted collective bargaining agreements their own exemption.
Because the NFLPA is the majority-elected exclusive representative of all NFL players, labor law does not provide Dickey with any authority to represent those players except that which the NFLPA - in its sole discretion - delegates to him. ...
Application of the antitrust laws to prevent the NFLPA from regulating its own members’ agents would conflict with the system of exclusive representation established in [the relevant law], while producing no direct competitive benefit in the relevant business market for professional football. This is precisely the type of labor market activity that the nonstatutory labor exemption shields from antitrust liability.