By Zach Arnold | December 9, 2013
The on-going saga between Andre Ward’s camp and promoter Dan Goossen continues to get uglier by the minute. Ward wants out of his deal with Goossen-Tutor Promotions, which lasts until 2016.
So, TMZ (presented by UFC) published a screaming headline titled Andre Ward — I’m Suing My Boxing Promoter … YOU DON’T OWN ME!!
Now… the rest of the story.
During the Summer, Ward’s camp asked for an arbitration hearing with the California State Athletic Commission & AG’s office in Los Angeles to ask for Ward’s contract with GTP to be voided because Antonio Leonard, a close ally of manager James Prince, alleged that he was a co-promoter of Andre Ward with Dan Goossen. Leonard alleged that since he had a verbal deal with GTP and that such a deal wasn’t disclosed with CSAC that therefore the Ward/GTP deal should be terminated. The argument is as laughable as it sounds and Andy Foster smacked Ward’s camp down by rejecting their request to void the Ward/GTP agreement. That agreement was approved by Ward, his lawyer & manager, Goossen, and the California commission. So, there were no grounds to terminate such a deal based on Leonard’s claim. Strike one.
Upset that arbitration didn’t go well in Los Angeles, Leonard (and Prince) sued Goossen in a Houston trial court over the same allegations of Leonard allegedly being a co-promoter of Andre Ward with Dan Goossen on a verbal agreement. Leonard asked for a temporary injunction to withhold money and for an emergency court hearing. Goossen’s attorney asked for the suit to be removed to Federal court, where GTP has legal action pending against Leonard over his alleged claims of a verbal agreement to be Andre Ward’s co-promoter. Leonard & Prince had their TRO lifted on the money and haven’t been able to get a hearing in court. Strike two.
With arbitration in California and a trial hearing request in Houston falling flat, Ward has now directly sued Dan Goossen in Los Angeles Superior Court (case no. BC529798) and asked a judge for declaratory relief. His attorney, Alan Rader, is asking for the contract to be finished. The argument this time in court? That Ward’s dealings with Goossen have lasted longer than 7 years and therefore is illegal according to California Labor Code.
Nicole Duva of Main Events succinctly points out one legal problem for Ward’s camp:
— Nicole Duva (@nicoleduva) December 10, 2013
— Nicole Duva (@nicoleduva) December 10, 2013
Ward’s camp is arguing that the promotional deal with Goossen-Tutor Promotions violates California’s labor code and yet Antonio Leonard is claiming to be a co-promoter with Dan Goossen, the man that Ward is now suing over in LA Superior Court. You can’t make this up.
Antonio Leonard wanted the California State Athletic Commission to void the deal through arbitration because he didn’t disclose a verbal agreement he claims made him a co-promoter w/ GTP for Andre Ward. That deal, in and of itself, would be invalid in California because he never presented or disclosed it to CSAC in the first place. After losing in the California arbitration hearing, Leonard files the same claim in a Houston trial court and asks for an injunction on money to Dan Goossen… because he claims he is a co-promoter with GTP on the promotional agreements Ward now claims violate California labor code. Not exactly a persuasive argument to make in a Texas court that Texas is the jurisdiction over the contracts. You can’t claim in Houston that you have jurisdiction to sue in Texas over a California contract while having the fighter claim in Los Angeles that the California contract violates California labor law.
This is what you call legal desperation.
So, what we have here is Andre Ward’s camp claiming Dan Goossen violated California labor law while a member of Ward’s own camp is claiming to be a co-promoter with GTP, thus making Antonio Leonard a supposed violator of California labor law by their own legal theory. Let that sink in: After asking CSAC to void the Ward/GTP promotional deal on the grounds of Antonio Leonard not disclosing a supposed co-promoter relationship with GTP that’s invalid due to CSAC not approving such an arrangement, Antonio Leonard wants Texas to recognize him as Andre Ward’s co-promoter for a California promotional contract with GTP that Ward is now arguing in Los Angeles violates California labor code & should be void.
Is your head spinning fast enough at the contradictory claims being made here?
Here’s a summary of the argument made by Rader in the LA Superior Court complaint:
Throughout the nearly 10 years since winning his Olympic gold medal and turning professional, Ward has been continuously bound to a series of exclusive boxing promotion contracts with defendant Goossen Tutor Promotions, LLC. The latest such contract does not expire, according to GTP, until 2016.
To better provide for his family and to advance his career, Ward now seeks a judicial declaration that his contractual relationship with GTP violates California Labor Code section 2855(a)’s seven-year time limit on personal services contracts. Because this is a pure legal question, Ward will seek summary judgment at the earliest opportunity.
On November 19th, 2004, Ward entered into a five-year Exclusive Promotional Rights Agreement with GTP and three days later executed an Addendum to that agreement.
On August 12, 2009, before the expiration of the 2004 Agreement, Ward and GTP entered into a Multi-Bout Agreement. The 2009 Agreement committed Ward exclusively to GTP for a series of five fights, the last of which occurred on December 17, 2011.
On April 6, 2011, before the fifth fight under the 2009 Agreement, Ward and GTP entered into another Exclusive Promotional RIghts Agreement and seven days later executed an Addendum to that agreement (collectively, the “2011 Agreement”). … The 2011 Agreement commenced on its execution and would obligate Ward to fight exclusively for GTP until its expiration three years after his first fight under it. That fight took place on September 8, 2012. Consequently, absent the judicial relief sought in this action, Ward would remain exclusively bound to GTP until at least September 7, 2015. Moreover, Ward is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that GTP contends that the 2011 Agreements does not expire until well into 2016.
California Labor Code section 2855(a) provides that “a contract to render personal service … may not be enforced against the employee beyond seven years from the commencement of service under it.” Ward’s 2004, 2009, and 2011 Agreements with GTP constitute a continuous, uninterrupted contractual relationship for personal services of more than nine years, during which Ward has been exclusively bound to GTP and prevented from contracting to fight for any other promoter.
Rader cites the 2001 case between Oscar De La Hoya vs. Top Rank in which DLH got his contract voided due to it being over seven years in length.
However, he has a major problem with his legal argument.
The DLH case argued that one contract lasted over 7 years in length through Amendments made to extend an original Agreement and therefore should be voided. De La Hoya’s case was an unpublished Federal case that wasn’t binding on the California court system. The fight involved jurisdictional issues of California vs. New York.
In the case of Andre Ward & GTP, Ward purportedly signed several different agreements. Those agreements were approved by him, his manager, his lawyer, Dan Goossen, Goossen’s lawyer, and the California State Athletic Commission. They were separate deals. It was not one continuous deal that lasted over 7 years in length. The Addendums supposedly dealt with binding arbitration, not court action.
— No Rivals (@joethecommunist) December 10, 2013
If you were to believe Rader’s argument on its face, then athletes in other sports who are under contract could not sign extensions (like Kobe Bryant with the Lakers) because such extensions would be viewed as one ongoing contract rather than different contracts agreed to by all parties involved. Rader’s argument is that it would violate California labor law.
If Ward’s camp was able to prevail on such a legal argument, it could cause havoc in California in terms of sports law. Goossen has promoted for a long time in California and organized most of Andre Ward’s fights in California. If Rader was able to convince a judge to establish a precedent that multiple contracts/extensions between an athlete and organization/promoter is equal to one long continuous contract that violates the 7-year rule in California’s Labor Code, it would open the door for athletes to immediately declare free agency on a whim via court order for declaratory relief.
Imagine what kind of labor scenario that would present for MLB, the NBA, the NFL, and the NHL. Such a precedent would kill any sort of long-term business relationships in the future between athletes and organizations/promoters. I cited Kobe Bryant earlier in this article. Bryant just signed another contract extension with the Lakers. According to Alan Rader’s logic, Kobe Bryant could void his extension with the Lakers on any grounds via a claim of declaratory relief at any time for any reason because his multiple contracts with the Lakers amounts to one giant continuous contract. This is the logic that Andre Ward’s camp is presenting in court.
To summarize the myriad of arguments made by Andre Ward’s camp to void his promotional deal with Dan Goossen (GTP):
- In front of the California State Athletic Commission, Ward & company argued that his contract with Goossen should be voided because it was not disclosed that Antonio Leonard is a co-promoter of Andre Ward along with GTP. However, the supposed agreement was a verbal deal, not presented or approved by CSAC. Andy Foster rejects voiding the Ward/GTP deal on grounds that even if a verbal agreement existed, Ward’s camp never presented it to the commission (thus making it invalid).
- Antonio Leonard filed a suit in Texas state court (Houston) making the same claims that he made at the CSAC arbitration hearing. He and Prince ask for an injunction to withhold cash releated to the Ward/GTP California promotional deal and ask for a court hearing on the matter. A judge refuses to grant a hearing to Leonard/Prince and bumped the case out of state court to Federal court where it belongs. Leonard claimed that Texas has jurisdiction over the California contract because he/Prince reside in Texas and Ward’s fights air on HBO, making Texas a business jurisdiction for Goossen.
- Andre Ward, via attorney Alan Rader, directly sues GTP in LA Superior Court. This time around, Ward claims that the promotional deal with GTP should be voided because it violates California labor law. This claim immediately neuters any claims of contract jurisdiction made by Antonio Leonard in his Houston lawsuit where he claimed that he is Ward’s co-promoter and that Texas should have jurisdiction. Rader’s legal theory about why the Ward/GTP violates California labor code is based on the theory that the multiple deals Ward has signed with GTP should be viewed as one long continuous deal and therefore since the business relationship has lasted over 7 years, somehow this has violated California labor code. Each deal Ward signed with GTP were separate contracts approved by Ward, his lawyer, his manager, Dan Goossen, GTP’s lawyer, and the California commission.
If Top Rank wants Andre Ward, Bob Arum can pay his old friend Dan Goossen a lot of money.
Exit question: Why didn’t Andre Ward present his newest legal argument (the 7 year theory) at the CSAC arbitration hearing months ago as opposed to using the Antonio Leonard co-promoter argument?