Do you want to make the NFL season even more intriguing next year? Next week you can by purchasing shares of 49ers tight end, Vernon Davis, for $10/share.  As discussed in detail on this blog before, a company called Fantex has announced that it will be offering shares of certain high profile athletes and Vernon Davis will be the first athlete up for sale. Davis has two years left on his current contract in which he will make just over $10M in cash with cap numbers of $7.3M and $7M in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

If you are interested in learning more about Seattle Sports Law, contact a  Seattle Sports Attorney or Seattle Sports Agent.

 

Seattle Sports AgentThe New Orleans Saints are expected to use their franchise tag on star tight end Jimmy Graham before Monday’s deadline, a league source told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. This begs the question: At what position will he be franchised?

The first position that likely comes to mind is tight end, which makes sense considering he was drafted as a tight end, looks like a tight end, and is considered the best tight end in the league. However, Graham’s agent has a differing perspective and for good reason. The franchise tag for tight ends is expected to be around $6.7 million this year while the franchise tag for wide receivers is expected to be $11.5 million, and thus, the battle begins as to what position Graham should be classified under.

In these situations both parties and the NFL arbitrator will look to the  NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement (“CBA”) for guidance. Article 10, Section 2(a)(i) of the CBA states, “The Nonexclusive Franchise Tender shall be a one year NFL Player Contract for (A) the average of the five largest Prior Year Salaries for players at the position (within the categories set forth in Section 7(a) below) at which the Franchise Player participated in the most plays during the prior League Year” (emphasis added).

Graham and his agent, Jimmy Sexton, are expected to file a grievance through the NFL Players’ Association. Their main argument in asking that Graham be considered a wide receiver is that he lined up out wide or in the slot for 67 percent of his snaps last year. Sounds like a wide receiver, right? The Saints, on the other hand, are adamant that Graham is a tight end. As general manager Mickey Loomis said recently, “Isn’t that what we drafted him as? Isn’t that what he made the Pro Bowl as? That’s what we see him as, a tight end.”

It is an interesting debate and one that will set precedent for future franchise tag disputes. Does the position a player lines up at matter more than his defined “position” on the roster? I would assume that the Saints will also argue that the tight end position has dramatically changed in the last few years and tight ends simply split out wide as receiver more often than they used to. The outcome of this matter will also have significant implications on negotiations for a long term deal for Graham because the franchise tag will set the rate at which the Saints could keep Graham. For example, if the franchise tag is $11.5 million this year, and the Saints wanted to tag Graham again in 2015, he would be paid $13.8 million (120% of his 2014 salary). On the other hand, if Graham was tagged as a tight end, his salary would be roughly $6.7 million this year, and if tagged again in 2015, $8.04 million.  These tight end figures would be much easier for the Saints to swallow and would allow them to spend less in a long term deal. On the other hand, if Graham is found to be a wide receiver, this would create leverage for his agent to negotiate a more lucrative long term contract.

If you have any questions or comments about the situation, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.

For more information on Seattle Sports Law, consider contacting a Seattle Sports Attorney or Seattle Sports Agent.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/juggernautco/

Athletes attempt to UnionizeFor the first time in the history of college sports, athletes are seeking to be represented by a labor union, taking formal steps last week to begin the process of being recognized as employees.

To succeed in the formation of a union, the players must convince the National Labor Relations Board that they are employees, which is no easy task. In addition to the numerous courts that have ruled that injured athletes are not eligible for medical benefits automatically available to employees, the players will face assertions from Northwestern and the NCAA that they are “student-athletes,” a category invented to avoid any suggestion of employment. Their scholarships are “grants-in-aid,” not salaries or wages.

A full legal analysis by ESPN’s, Lester Munson, can be read here.

If you have further interest in Seattle Sports Law, contact a Seattle Sports Attorney or Seattle Sports Agent.

Bb86WAdCAAA1UzJAthletes and sports teams seeking trademarks is not a new topic to this blog. In the past, we’ve discussed the Seattle Supersonics trademark issues and Florida Gulf Coast’s “Dunk City” and today, since I’m a Seattle sports fan and the Hawks are playing for the NFC Championship this weekend, I figured it would be timely to discuss Marshawn Lynch’s “Beast Mode” trademarks.

ESPN Business reporter, Darren Rovell, came out with an article today discussing the financial success of the “Beast Mode” trademark via a number of licensing deals and reported that Marshawn made “in the mid six figures” in 2013. The report goes on to state that for those companies who Lynch chooses to work with — he rejects about five proposals a month — there’s a typical 20 percent sales royalty fee and that Lynch himself has to approve every design.

The University of South Carolina athletic department, supplement company MusclePharm and Deuce Watches all give him a cut of their “Beast Mode” business. So too did Aaron Rodgers‘ brother Luke whose company Pro Merch made 2,500 “Beast Mode” shirts to sell at a Target in Seattle. They sold out in three days, Hendrickson said. This week, Lynch gave Joe Montana‘s wife Jennifer the rights to sell “Beast Mode” necklaces on her website in exchange for a piece of each $124 sale.

Marshaw’s attorney, R. Gwen Peterson, has filed a number of trademarks for “Beast Mode” over the years. Below is a list of each trademark and a link to the USPTO’s website:

Beast Mode: For bracelets, headphones, athletic bags, and clothing filed on Sep 9, 2013.

Beast Mode: For sunglasses and watches registered on Nov 12, 2012.

Beast Mode: For mens and womens clothing registered on Dec 4, 2012.

Beast Mode: For t-shirts registered on July 7, 2009.

As discussed on this blog in the past, a trademark includes any word, name, symbol, device, or any combination, used or intended to be used to identify and distinguish the goods/services of one seller or provider from those of others, and to indicate the source of the goods/services.  In this case, Marshawn Lynch coined the phrase back in college and has continued to refer to his play on the field as “Beast Mode” throughout his career. Marshawn and his legal team were smart enough to protect the phrase early in his career to squelch others from trying to capitalize on Marshawn’s fame.

The best part of the story, however, is that all of the profits from the “Beast Mode” trademark are donated to Marshawn’s charity,the  Fam 1st Family Foundation.

For more information on Seattle Sports Law, contact a Seattle Sports Attorney or Seattle Sports Agent.

If you would like to obtain a state or federal trademark for your business, contact inVigor Law Group.

The 2013 season has now ended for 20 NFL teams and many of them have been busy signing players to reserve/futures contracts as they begin formulating their 2014 off-season roster. I have been asked a number of times recently what exactly these reserve/futures contracts are.

The 2014 NFL league season, when the league is considered open for business, does not begin until March 11th this year. Players signed between now and then are signed to these ‘reserve/futures’ deals because they are being signed for a season that has not officially begun. These types of contracts are solely for players who were not on any NFL team’s active roster when the previous season ended. If they were under contract, then they would remain so until the league’s new year starts. That means players who were on practice squads or prospective players who were out of football entirely at the end of a season can be signed to these contracts. True free agency does not begin until the league opens for business. Additionally, non-playoff teams have one week to sign their practice squad players to this type of contract and if they fail to do so, those players are free to sign with any team.

For more information on Seattle Sports law, contact a Seattle Sports Attorney or Seattle Sports Agent.

Walter ThurmondUnfortunately, the Seahawks secondary has lost another one of its studs for a violation of the NFL Substance Abuse Policy. Last season, Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman were suspended four games for using Adderall, but Sherman’s punishment was overturned on appeal.

This time, defensive back Walter Thurmond is the violator and will serve a four game suspension. Per Section II(B) of the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy, “A player will normally be subject to discipline up to and including suspension without pay for four regular and/or post-season games for a first violation of the law related to substances of abuse other than alcohol and for six regular and/or post season games for a second violation.” In addition to missing four games, Thurmond, per Section IV(B) of the Policy, will be without pay for those games and will lose $148,235 in base salary (four games at $630K base salary) and is also subject to a signing bonus forfeiture. Since Thurmond’s signing bonus proration this year is $125,875, he shall forfeit 4/17th of this amount (4 of 17 games – includes bye week), or $34,878.

The Substance Abuse Policy provides for an appeals process and Thurmond initiated an appeal when he first learned of the violation, but subsequently dropped it. There is speculation that Thurmond dropped the appeal in order to serve his four game suspension now so that he can be back in time for the playoffs.

This is a big blow to the Seahawks secondary as they are already without starter, Brandon Browner, for the next four to six weeks with a groin injury.

For more information on Seattle Sports Law, contact a Seattle Sports Attorney or a Seattle Sports Agent.

We’ve discussed the intersection of sports and trademarks a number of times on this blog (See Dunk City and Seattle Supersonics) and today our topic revolves around Jameis “Famous Jameis” Winston of the #2 ranked college football team in the country, the Florida State Seminoles.

On October 24, Mukul Mehra, a grad student at the University of Alabama (#1 team in the country – a coincidence? I think not) applied with the USPTO to register the trademark “Famous Jameis.” The trademark was registered under International Classification 25, and specifies the use of “Athletic pants; Athletic shirts; Body shirts; Clothing for athletic use, namely, padded pants; Clothing for athletic use, namely, padded shirts; Golf shirts; Gym pants; Hats; Hooded sweat shirts; Shirts; Shirts and short-sleeved shirts; Sport shirts; Sports caps and hats; Sports pants; Sports shirts; Sweat pants; Sweat shirts; T-shirts; Tee shirts.”

As is common with these types of trademark applications, the registrant submitted under section 1(B) which is an “Intent to Use” application, meaning, the registrant plans to use the trademark in the future but is not currently using the trademark in commerce. Under this type of application, the registrant has six months from the Notice of Allowance to file a Statement of Use to show that they are actually using the trademark in commerce.

This issue of whether a person should trademark their own name always seems to provide interesting legal quandaries and compelling stories for the media. Last year, Jeremy Lin’s rise to fame, commonly referred to as “Linsanity”, became a nationally known phrase and numerous trademark applications rolled in to the USPTO. A New York Times article discussed how this prompted Lin’s attorneys to file protests with the USPTO and send numerous cease-and-desists to potential violators.

I would imagine that the same course of action is likely to occur in this situation if a number of trademark applications arise for “Famous Jameis.” This name will surely be in the spotlight for the next few months since the Florida State Seminoles will likely end up playing for the BCS National Championship against the Alabama Crimson Tide and Jameis Winston is in the running for the coveted Hesiman Trophy.

Typically in these situations, once the trademark application is filed, the a reviewing attorney from the USPTO will send an initial refusal to the filing party explaining that the applications lacked consent from the famous person to register the trademark and convey a false connection to him/her. The applicant will then have six months to provide additional information in response.

I think it’s safe to assume that Jameis Winston hasn’t consented to the use of his nickname by a student at the school standing between him and a BCS National Championship. Stay tuned.

For more information on Seattle Sports Law, contact a Seattle Sports Attorney.