The Work

March 12, 2011 9:55 AM

The Score: NFL Players Decertify and Greenberg Out as Rangers Owner

Posted by Brian Baxter

UPDATE: 3/13/11, 4:30 p.m. The NFL has hired Boies, Schiller & Flexner's David Boies and King & Spalding's Paul Clement to supplement its legal team from Covington & Burling representing the league in the antitrust suit filed by players, according to The New York Times.

The end of the week saw a pair of major sports law developments, with labor negotiations between the National Football League and its players union breaking down and the Texas Rangers's new ownership team breaking up.

First, to the gridiron, where the NFL Players Association voted to decertify Friday, just ahead of the  latest deadline for reaching a new collective bargaining agreement with owners. The move was a prelude to an antitrust suit by players against the league in federal court in Minneapolis.

Last week U.S. district court judge David Doty, a longtime nemesis of league owners, gave the union a big win against ownership in a dispute over TV revenue. On Friday ten players--including Tom Brady and Peyton Manning--filed an antitrust action in Minneapolis against the league. (Click here for a copy of the players' complaint.)

The players' litigation team includes Dewey & LeBoeuf global litigation chair Jeffrey Kessler and Weil, Gotshal & Manges litigation cochair James Quinn, both of whom have served as longtime outside counsel to the now defunct union. Barbara Berens and Justi Rae Miller of Minneapolis firm Berens & Miller are representing the players, along with Briggs and Morgan's Timothy Thornton, a former general counsel of Northwest Airlines.

The NFL's lead outside labor lawyer is Proskauer Rose's L. Robert Batterman, whose hiring three years ago had some predicting a labor war. Longtime outside NFL litigation counsel Gregg Levy from Covington & Burling is leading a team from the firm also representing the league in court. NFL owners have responded to the antitrust suit by locking out players. (For more background and an analysis of the legal strategies behind the dispute, click here and here for stories by Michael McCann and Lester Munson, legal analysts for and, respectively.)

Meanwhile, The Associated Press reported on Friday that Texas Rangers CEO and managing partner Charles "Chuck" Greenberg, who once headed the sports practice at Pepper Hamilton in Pittsburgh, will step down as head of the team due to a clash with president--and Baseball Hall of Famer--Nolan Ryan and co-owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson.

The move by Greenberg, who reportedly only put up between $2 million and $3 million of his own money in acquiring the Rangers out of bankruptcy last year, comes in the wake of what was apparently a serious falling out with the rest of the team's new ownership group. ('s Jon Heyman has the full story on the controversy that marked Greenberg's short seven-month tenure with the team, which included a World Series loss to the San Francisco Giants.)

As a result, Greenberg will leave the Rangers and sell his interest in the team to his partners. "I do so with a heavy heart," Greenberg said in a statement.

Greenberg, joined by corporate partner Kristin Wells, left Pepper Hamilton in August for Reed Smith. (The latter firm previously added a 14-person Pepper Hamilton group led by real estate cochair Dusty Kirk.) Given his Rangers duties at the time, Greenberg took on a counsel role at Reed Smith.

Foley & Lardner and White & Case advised the Greenberg-Ryan group in its bid for the Rangers.

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