Chat with Andrew Brandt
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN's sports business analyst Andrew Brandt stops by to chat about the business side of the NFL.
Brandt, @ADBrandt, who has over 25 years of experience in professional football, both from the management and player representation side, gives fans an insider's view on the business of football.
He is also a lecturer at the Wharton School of Business - teaching Sports Business and Negotiations - as well as the Director of Sports Law at Villanova University Law School. He has written for Forbes, the Huffington Post and Sports Business Journal, while also appearing across all ESPN TV, radio and online platforms. In his time in the football business, Brandt as served as a player representative, a World League GM and a VP with the Packers.
Send your questions now and join Brandt Friday at 1 p.m. ET!
Andrew Brandt (1:02 PM)
Good to be here for my weekly visit. As always, lots going on with the business of football and all sports. Look forward to all your questions about the Saints, wrapping up the referees, the NHL, etc., so fire away!
I get that certain things are important at certain times, but when you're negotiating a CBA that will be in place for 10 years, don't you want to make sure everything in that agreement is something you can live with? Don't you need to plan ahead a little bit? Having the players upset with Goodell's power now really isn't going to do anything.
Andrew Brandt (1:07 PM)
Good point, and that has been my issue with this entire bounty reaction from the players. The outrage on the quality and quantity of Goodell's evidence, to me, is misplaced. This is not a court of law. The evidence is not judged by an impartial arbitrator or an impartial judge. This is a collectively-bargained power that the commissioner has to discipline players based on a catch-all phrase called "conduct detrimental". As to the question players ask on whether or not Goodell is being fair, that is a relative term. To ownership, he is being fair and relying on evidence he's culled from years of investigation. The players think the evidence is shoddy, but they're in the first year of a ten-year CBA that sanctions the commissioner to act this way. The wild-card is the judge in New Orleans who can grant the players injunctions to play even though Goodell has ruled on the suspensions. The focus is on the results when really it should have been on the process a year and a half ago. I understand priorities change and the NFLPA looked to secure more important issues to them, but to rail against the process now is too late. In terms of, can the union change this? I think everything is negotiable even with an existing CBA. The question is, would the NFLPA give up something to rein in Goodell's powers, and that something would have to be pretty strong, because of the way he feels about the power to discipline players.
If you were to go back to being an agent, what would you be telling Vilma?
Andrew Brandt (1:10 PM)
I suppose my advice would be that it's OK to give public statements, but I think he would be better-served by having them be less emotional and more direct in terms of something like "I disagree strongly with the commissioner's decision, and we will use all available resources to contest it", rather than tirades against the commissioner and lawsuits. To me, any dispute resolution is about relationships and developing some sort of trust with the other side, and I've sensed from the beginning, whether it's Vilma, his lawyer, or the union lawyers, that there doesn't appear to be a relationship or trust with the union lawyers to broker some kind of trust, and the time to have that negotiation would have been before the suspensions were announced, rather than after. I would also want to make sure that Vilma is protected from any incrimination due to any comments he makes involving what really happened or not.
Andrew, is the Redskins and Cowboys cap issue been resolved? I haven't heard much about it lately.
Andrew Brandt (1:12 PM)
Unfortunately for Redskins and Cowboys fans, yes, that ship has sailed. The case was brought against the NFL by Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder contesting whether Roger Goodell had the authority to do that, contesting the cap penalties themselves. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the NFL and the Redskins and Cowboys made a statement that they would no longer contest it and would accept the arbitrator's decision. My sense now is that Jones and Snyder now have that chip to use with Goodell and other owners going forward, but they've taken their medicine on that case.
Andrew Brandt (1:13 PM)
As to the collusion case on whether there was a secret cap or not in 2010, that is related to the Cowboys and Redskins penalties, but it is a separate case between the union and the league, and distinct from the cap penalty case. So even if the judge rules that there was a secret cap and the owners are guilty of collusion, that will not affect the Redskins' cap penalties.
Peter (Raleigh, NC)
What are your impressions on the NHL lockout? Can you see a scenario where this goes on past the Winter Classic? I think that would be too detrimental to the game.
Andrew Brandt (1:17 PM)
You can take the language used by Gary Bettman and the owners and insert it into what was said by Roger Goodell and the NFL owners, and what was said by David Stern and the NBA owners. They all have talked about a changed economic environment since their last CBA, and the fact that player costs are outpacing team revenues. The obvious rebuttal to that from the players should be the only reason player costs are outpacing revenues is that owners are paying players what they want to pay them. These CBAs are about tipping the scales toward ownership. That has been accomplished in the NFL and NBA and likely will be accomplished in the NHL. The activation point for television money in the NBA was the Christmas games, and that dictated a deadline of Thanksgiving to have the deal done, which did happen. In the case of the NHL, the national TV money activates with the winter classic, which would indicate about a December 1 deadline for something to happen. I think I would favor that happening, but Don Fehr, the head of the NHLPA, is going to drive a hard bargain, and I feel less confident that they will get a deal done than I did about the NFL and NBA.
Andrew Brandt (1:17 PM)
Best guess is: a deal is done in the last days of November.
adam (Bloomington, MN)
On the topic of "broke," do you see today's agents being somehow better about advising their clients or is it inevitable to invest in tomato farms?
Andrew Brandt (1:21 PM)
"Broke" brought out a lot of behind-the-scenes realities about athletes and money. From my experience as an agent, as well as on the team side, there's no bigger challenge than controlling athletes' spending. I do defend agents' roles in these decisions, because more often than not, the agents are not involved in financial management, only in negotiating deals, marketing, etc. I would always tell my clients to simply put their money in a bank account, because beyond superstars or high first-round draft picks, there's simply not a lot of leftover money for investment. There are the horror stories out there with these terrible investments and shady financial managers, but the key is for players to have people they can trust to tell them what they need to hear rather than what they want to hear. You would hope they have someone to do that. Unfortunately the lure of those investments is out there, making it hard to avoid risky investments. At the end of the day, all you can do is lead the horse to water and hope he drinks. I would have investment seminars with the Packers and financial management sessions, but it would not be mandatory and the turnout would be low.
Joe (San Antonio)
What was the most head scratching purchase you saw a player buy?
Andrew Brandt (1:23 PM)
I once saw a player with a $3500 charge to a pet shop, and I called him on it. He mentioned what a great dog he had bought. I asked how much the dog was, and he said, about a thousand dollars. I asked him what the other $2500 of expense were. He mentioned a couple of accessories and an air-conditioned doghouse. I just shook my head that a player would spend that much money on an air-conditioned doghouse, with a contract that may have been and in fact was his last in football. Those are the kind of things that are frustrating.
Where are current NFL players stand re: former players concussion suit?Does the NFL assess the teams individually for excess liability coverage and liability accruals?
Andrew Brandt (1:26 PM)
I'm not completely conversant in the liability issue, but in terms of active vs. former players, active players are very interested in seeing where these concussion lawsuits go, particularly in the area of medical monitoring. There are many players in these lawsuits who do not have symptoms -- they simply are requesting monitoring as they move toward these problems later on. That is the concern of current players. They want the costs of their care covered long after they continue playing. I get frustrated hearing from players who join these lawsuits, simply because there is no downside for them to do so. The lawyer fees are contingent and they might as well, even though they show no signs of mental impairment. The other interesting things for active players is that, by the time they reach trial, most current players will be former players. They have a particular interest, and if they don't, they should.
Mark (Woodbury, MN)
Will a court decide if Goodell has to recuse himself or does he just make the decision not to himself.
Andrew Brandt (1:29 PM)
The appeal is to Goodell, so as I read it, it is his decision to make. In his ruling on Tuesday, he actually identified himself as the hearing officer on appeal, but in light of the players' request, he could designate another league executive to hear these cases. Of course, these executives are going to feel the way that he does, because he's their boss. In theory, the players would have a more impartial hearing officer were it not the commissioner. My initial reaction was that he will not recuse himself because he feels so strongly about these issues, but for the sake of appearance, he could have one of his lieutenants be the hearing officer. That case will be heard no later than a week from Tuesday.
Andrew Brandt (1:30 PM)
Thanks as always for great, smart, and intelligent questions. I'm always impressed by the level of awareness that these questions have. Be sure to check out my two columns this week: one on the Jets' injuries and one on the bounty rulings. I'm always tweeting about these things @ADBrandt. See you next week!