WASHINGTON (Dec. 7, 2006) -- Looking and sounding more like a lawyer than a linebacker, LaVar Arrington defended his former agent in front of Congress, saying he believes Carl Poston shouldn't have been suspended by the NFL Players Association.
"All I ask is to have a fair process. That's it," Arrington told a House Judiciary subcommittee. "Nothing more and nothing less -- a fair process."
Wearing a brown striped suit, a bronze-colored shirt and a tie, the New York Giants linebacker was besieged by congressmen and staff members with requests for autographs and photographs during a break in the hearing and again afterward.
Needless to say, the other three people who testified at the hearing -- two lawyers and a law professor -- didn't receive quite the same attention or adoration.
"You should think about running for Congress someday," Rep. Martin Meehan, D-Mass., told Arrington during the questioning period.
Members of the Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law chastised the NFLPA for having one arbitrator -- and the same one since 1994.
"You've got the appearance of impropriety and unfairness," chairman Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said after the hearing. "The core issue is: Is it fair that the agents have the same arbitrator every time? Or should there be some kind of panel? I think the NFLPA is likely to reconsider that issue."
NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said he will report the lawmakers' concerns to the union.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, in line to chair the subcommittee in Congress' next session, repeatedly referred to the NFL and NFLPA's "hand-in-glove" relationship and hinted at the possibility of "legislative relief" in the future.
Cannon, though, said: "If the NFL really does something to create a board or group of arbiters, this probably disappears."
Poston's suspension stems from his handling of a contract Arrington signed with the Washington Redskins near the end of the 2003 season. That deal was closed in a rush because of a salary-cap deadline -- although Berthelsen pointed out the deadline actually arrived the day after the contract was signed.
Arrington and Poston later said the team bilked the three-time Pro Bowl player out of a multi-million-dollar bonus. Eventually, Arrington and the Redskins resolved the dispute; he didn't get the bonus.
But, in connection with that contract, the NFLPA's disciplinary committee recommended that Poston be suspended for two years. After hearings about the case were postponed, the NFLPA suspended the agent.
Berthelsen said Poston backed out of three hearings before the suspension was announced in July, and two more since. Poston wasn't on Capitol Hill, either, because of recent knee surgery; he submitted written testimony, along with a note from his doctor explaining the timing of the operation.
So, instead, Poston's side was presented by Arrington, who also appeared at a U.S. District Court hearing in New York when Poston challenged the suspension.
Referring to the eventual agreement with the Redskins, Arrington told the congressmen: "I'm not a law scholar or anything like that. I'm not a lawyer. But how does a disciplinary act toward Carl Poston come about when there was a compromise that was reached -- a no-fault compromise?"
Berthelsen told the panel that the NFLPA has the right to represent all NFL players, and only delegates that right to certified agents.
One of the other witnesses Thursday was a lawyer for another agent, Steve Weinberg, decertified by the union.
After the session was finished -- and before another round of pictures -- Arrington was asked why he testified.
"For more than just myself, for more than Carl Poston. ... Hold a fair hearing. Go through the due process," he said. "That's what this country was built on."
The Associated Press News Service
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