NFLPA & Houston: “Snake Oil Salesmen”?

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With lawsuits flying about after Super Bowl 2004, the decertification of the NFLPA-Houston Chapter, and considering NFLPA/HoustonÂ?s track record, one could construe them as modern-day Â?Snake Oil Salesmen.Â?

Status of the National Football League Players Association–Houston Chapter is on again off again. And it’s not too much of a stretch to view the phenomenon as hand-and-glove with Houston’s political corruption. With lawsuits flying about after Super Bowl 2004, and yet another shutdown of the Houston Chapter, what can we expect in the future? More of the “Snake Oil Salesmen” experience?

The NFLPA decertified the Houston chapter after a local businesswoman sued the NFLPA and its chapter Vice President, Charles Weldon Taylor, Jr. for breach of contract and check fraud - Cause No. 819789, Harris County Court No. 1 (August 18, 2005 - "NFLPA, Charlie Taylor Stalemate Single Mom Suffers” PRWEB). The woman seeks to recover losses incurred, and $31,000 in dishonored NFLPA checks written to her for producing a 3-day BET/NFLPA gala at the Pavilion, Galleria in Houston.

What comes to mind is the quintessential Traveling Salesmen—“Snake Oil Salesmen”—who trekked the country to sell oil that detoxified poison from a snake bite. Dishonest hawkers would sell products, then pack up and leave town before locals discovered the medicine was bogus. Super Bowl 2004 has come and gone, multiple claims were filed over the BET/NFLPA bash, and no one will account for the money. The producer of the event was the most damaged.

As early as 2001, the woman worked towards the “big one,” Super Bowl 2004. The Super Bowl 2004 BET/NFLPA event was a phenomenal success, but was a financial nightmare for the producer and other vendors who went unpaid. It’s not surprising the NFLPA has again closed the Houston shop. But the single mom remains undaunted by intimidating adversaries. The NFLPA claims no responsibility because they sent a "cease and desist" letter to Taylor. Strangely, they allowed Taylor and the Houston Chapter to remain intact until well after the BET/NFLPA party. The single mom of two teenagers is also contending with ethical issues spawned by the City of Houston and the District Attorney’s Office.

After receiving bad checks from Taylor, the producer filed a complaint with the Harris County District Attorney’s office to no avail. They declined to prosecute on the basis that “It does not fit the Texas Penal Code"; (January 21, 2005 - “Single Mom vs. NFL Players Association" PRWEB). However, the DA’s Web site continues to state, “. . . we are tasked with the prosecution of all criminal cases (with the exception of municipal violations) in the nation’s third most populated county” (http://dao-web.dao.hctx.net/ie/front.cfm).

Enter the City of Houston, a surprise competitor with a tax-exempt status and municipal personnel. Just hours before show time, Taylor used his connections with the City and the Harris County-Houston Sports Authority, (his office mates), to get a better deal on portable toilets. In one stroke, he reduced the woman’s contract from $60,000 to $40,000, causing significant losses, including a $6,500 penalty she paid to her supplier. Perhaps it’s time for Texas to consider legislation that prohibits public institutions from using taxpayer money and a tax-exempt status to unfairly compete with private businesses. Indeed, the NFLPA’s non-profit, tax-exempt status has also raised questions.

On separate occasions, the NFLPA was investigated by the Senate, the SEC and the IRS, pertaining to the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and over the NFLPA’s acquiescence of drug use by NFL players (November 1, 1999 – “Senate, IRS Investigates NFLPA Over Drug Tests” - http://www.sportslawnews.com). Actually, the NFLPA even has a collection of business conflicts within its own ranks, one of which presents an interesting parallel.

Former NFL players Ronnie Lott and Marcus Allen filed suit against the NFLPA for breach of contract in connection with Super Bowl parties (November 15, 1999 – “Former NFL Stars Sue Union for Contract Breach” http://www.sportslawnews.com). Lott and Allen were partners in Super Bowl Party Inc., which had a contract with the NFLPA to produce Super Bowl events . . . Lott and Allen maintain “the NFLPA reneged on the deal and began to stage its own events.” The NFLPA claims they offered Lott and Allen a contract, but they did not sign.

It will be interesting to see how things unfold in ensuing months. Will the NFLPA reestablish the Houston Chapter soon? How much time, money and effort will the City of Houston invest in enhancing their image to win another bid for the Super Bowl? Will the developing “Snake Oil Salesmen” stigma be enhanced or diminished? Meanwhile, Houston businesses are best advised to avoid dealing with Traveling Salesmen.

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Louis Gaglio
Freedom Press
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