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Wichard v. Suggs

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

March 24, 2015


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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Maire Wichard, in her capacity as Executor of the Estate of Gary Wichard, Petitioner (1:15-cv-00003-JCC-TCB): Matthew H. Sorensen, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cameron McEvoy PLLC, Fairfax, VA.

For Terrell Suggs, Respondent (1:15-cv-00003-JCC-TCB): Emily McLogan Gurskis, Cozen O'Connor (DC), Washington, DC.

For Terrell Suggs, Petitioner (1:15-cv-00083-JCC-TCB): Emily McLogan Gurskis, LEAD ATTORNEY, Cozen O'Connor (DC), Washington, DC.

For Maire Wichard, Respondent (1:15-cv-00083-JCC-TCB): Edward W. Cameron, LEAD ATTORNEY, Matthew H. Sorensen, Cameron McEvoy PLLC, Fairfax, VA.

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This matter is before the Court on a petition to confirm an arbitration award under the Federal Arbitration Act (" FAA" ). The underlying arbitration award involved a contract dispute between

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Terrell Suggs, a professional football player, and his former agent, Gary Wichard. The arbitrator found in favor of Mr. Wichard's estate and awarded the estate $172,800.00 in agent fees for the 2013 season. Two motions are currently pending before the Court: (1) the estate's motion to confirm[1] the arbitration award [Dkt. 2]; and (2) the estate's motion to stay certain claims raised by Mr. Suggs in his petition to vacate, pending arbitration of those claims [Dkt. 19].

For the following reasons, the Court will confirm the arbitration award and deny the motion to stay certain claims.

I. Background

A. Factual Background

From the 1980s until his untimely death after a serious illness in March of 2011, Gary Wichard (" Mr. Wichard" or " the agent" ) was a certified National Football League Players Association (" NFLPA" ) Contract Advisor and a principal in the sports management firm ProTect Management. (Pet. to Confirm Arbitration Award (" Pet. to Confirm" ) [Dkt. 1]; Arbitrator's Opinion & Award (" Op. & Award" ) [Dkt. 1-5] Ex. D at 4.) The conduct and services of Contract Advisors, colloquially known as agents, are regulated by the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors (" the Regulations" ). (Pet. to Confirm Ex. C [Dkts. 1-3, 1-4] Reg. § 3.) Contract Advisors assist NFL Players in, inter alia, contract negotiations with NFL teams. (Reg. § (1)(B).) Contract Advisors are prohibited from negotiating on behalf of an NFL player, however, until the agent and player have entered into a Standard Representation Agreement (" SRA" ). (Id. at § 3(B)(1).)

On January 3, 2003, Mr. Wichard entered into an SRA with Respondent Terrell Suggs (" Mr. Suggs" or " the player" ), a defensive end/linebacker from Arizona State University who was preparing to enter the 2003 NFL Draft. (Pet. to Confirm Ex. B [Dkt. 1-2] (hereinafter " SRA" ).) SRAs are approved by the NFLPA; in fact, the NFLPA logo is affixed at the top of the SRA between Mr. Wichard and Mr. Suggs. (Id.) The SRA provided that Mr. Wichard would " act[] in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of [Mr. Suggs] . . . [and] represent, advise, counsel, and assist [Mr. Suggs] in the negotiation, execution, and enforcement of his playing contract(s) in the National Football League." (Id. at § 3.) " If [Mr. Wichard] succeed[ed] in negotiating an NFL Player Contract acceptable to [Mr. Suggs]," Mr. Suggs agreed to pay Mr. Wichard " a fee of three percent (3%) of the compensation received by [Mr. Suggs] for each such playing season . . . ." (Id. at § 4.) Subsequently, after entering into the SRA, Mr. Suggs was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of the 2003 NFL Draft. (Op. & Award at 5.)

After early success in his professional football career,[2] on July 15, 2009, Mr. Suggs signed a five-year NFL Player Contract with the Baltimore Ravens worth approximately $62.5 million, which also included an option for the 2014 season (" the 2009 Contract" ). (Op. & Award at 6; Pet. to Vacate Arbitration Award [Dkt. 1 in Case No. 1:15cv83] (hereinafter " Pet. to Vacate" ) ¶ 14.) In 2010, the Baltimore

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Ravens exercised the option under Mr. Suggs' 2009 Contract for the 2014 season, which in effect made the term of the contract six years instead of five years, for the 2009 through 2014 NFL seasons. (Pet. to Vacate ¶ 14.) There is no dispute that Mr. Wichard negotiated the 2009 Contract on Mr. Suggs' behalf.

On December 3, 2010, the NFLPA Committee on Agent Regulation and Discipline (" CARD" ) suspended Mr. Wichard's certification as a Contract Advisor for improper contact with a prospective NFL player who, at the time, was ineligible to be drafted. (Op. & Award at 6.) The nine-month suspension prohibited Mr. Wichard from (1) recruiting and signing NFL players to SRAs and (2) negotiating NFL Player Contracts with NFL teams on behalf of NFL players. (Id.) The suspension did not prevent Mr. Wichard from receiving fees or performing under NFL Player Contracts that he previously negotiated, which included the 2009 Contract. (Id. at 6-7.) Mr. Wichard agreed to the terms of the suspension. (Id. at 7.) The same day, Mr. Wichard sent a memorandum to all clients of ProTect Management, advising them of the suspension, stating in part:

Absolutely nothing will change for any existing clients. I will still be able to provide the EXACT same services as an agent that I always have. I will still be able to communicate with NFL teams on your behalf. What I will not be able to do for nine months is recruit new clients. Once again, I just want to stress that this suspension will not affect existing clients in any way. Please contact me with any concerns you have.

(Id. at 7 (emphasis in original).)

Approximately four months later, on March 11, 2011, Mr. Wichard died. (Op. & Award at 8.) On March 15, 2011, ProTect Management sent a memorandum to all clients, which stated in relevant part:

It was [Mr. Wichard's] wish to keep ProTect Management operating even after his [death]. In light of [Mr. Wichard's] wishes we are proud to announce that ProTect Management will be honoring [Mr. Wichard] by continuing to function as we have for [the] last three decades. As a certified NFL Contract Advisor, Jason Chinn [(" Mr. Chinn" )] will continue to run the day-to-day operations for ProTect. As always, please feel free to contact any of us with any questions or concerns. We really appreciate all of your understanding and support.

(Id.) On November 15, 2011, Mr. Suggs signed a new SRA with Contract Advisor Joel Segal, who is not associated with ProTect Management.[3] (Id. at 9.) Mr. Suggs was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year for the 2011 NFL season. (Id. at 10.)

During the period of Mr. Wichard's illness and/or following his death, Mr. Suggs received two reprimands from the Baltimore Ravens on October 8, 2010 and November 16, 2011. (Op. & Award at 8.) Mr. Suggs also received several fines totaling $42,500 from the NFL for violations of the uniform rules, or as penalties imposed for unnecessary roughness or grabbing the face mask of an opposing player, in the following amounts on the following dates: (1) $10,000 on December 7, 2010; (2) $15,000 on January 4, 2011; (3) $7,500 on September 27, 2011; (4) $5,000 on October 5, 2011; and (5) $5,000 on November 15, 2011. (Id. at 8-9.) Mr. Suggs did not appeal any of these fines. (Id. at 9.)

It is undisputed that Mr. Suggs paid Mr. Wichard, ProTect ...

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