Lions' Kenny Golladay skips deposition as former, current agents spar in court over future earnings

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay recently skipped a scheduled deposition as part of a lawsuit brought by his former agent against his current agent. The lawsuit contends he broke an exclusive-rights contract by participating in an autograph signing for unaffiliated marketing firms who were out to poach him to a new agency — just three days before Golladay split from his former agent. 

Golladay was scheduled to sit for a virtual deposition Thursday, but never showed after lawyers waited 1 hour and 11 minutes for him to join the call. He has since ignored multiple follow-up emails from plaintiff's attorneys, inquiring about rescheduling.

Kenny Golladay

Golladay was served with a subpoena Nov. 5 at the Lions' training facility in Allen Park. Jay Colvin, general counsel for the Lions, accepted the subpoena, Golladay having gotten word to the server that, "If I go near Mr. Golladay he would be forced to go into quarantine.” The subpoena requested Golladay sit for the deposition and provide documents related to the case, which was filed in 2019 in Pennsylvania court.

The court proceedings, pitting Golladay's former agent against his current agent, are playing out as Golladay, a third-round pick by the Lions in the 2017 NFL Draft, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in March. His new contract is expected to draw an annual salary of between $18 million and $20 million, potentially for up to three years. 

Golladay's former agent, Jason Bernstein, and Bernstein's agency, Clarity Sports International LLC, filed suit against Golladay's new agent, Todd France, and France's firm, CAA, in February 2019, claiming they "tortiously interfered" with Golladay's contracts and "caused Golladay to terminate those contracts."

More: Upon further review: Lions' Darrell Bevell elaborates on Matt Patricia comment

Golladay, through the Lions, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday. He is not named in the lawsuit, which was filed against CAA and the memorabilia companies.

Golladay participated in an autograph signing in suburban Chicago on Jan. 21, 2019, for Pennsylvania-based companies Redland Sports and MVP Authentics and New Jersey-based company Boone Enterprises, despite having an exclusive appearance and endorsement deal with Clarity Sports. Clarity Sports caught wind of the event via a Facebook post advertising it, called the companies on it and they removed the Facebook posts but continued with the signing.

On Jan. 21, Golladay was picked up from a Chicago airport by a $336 car service that, according to texts, was to transport Golladay, his mother and France. He went straight to the signing, where there were snacks and waters at his request, and signed about 600 items, according to court documents, including helmets, jerseys and cleats.

Three days later, the receiver fired Bernstein. Bernstein, in his lawsuit, alleges that the memorabilia companies have a close relationship with CAA, France's firm — suggesting the signing was a sort-of front for a back-channel movement to get Golladay to switch agents. Bernstein called the defendants' actions "outrageous, intentional and malicious." In another court filing, France's team disputed the claim, saying Golladay approached him first, and weeks before the January 2019 autograph signing.

Boone signed the contract for the autograph signing; MVP Authentics cut the check.

More: ESPN gives Lions a quarterback in early NFL mock draft

Bernstein, in his lawsuit, estimates he is losing out on more than $10,000 a year — or his standard 15% — off Golladay's endorsement and appearance deals, and nearly $600,000 a year — his standard 3% — off Golladay's next NFL contract.

He is seeking damages of at least $1,782,942.81.

Golladay signed with Bernstein on Dec. 23, 2016, after Golladay's collegiate career at Northern Illinois was over, and then they negotiated a rookie contract with the Lions worth $3.19 million over four years with a $718,824 signed bonus.

He had an injury-shortened rookie season (hamstring), then eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards the next two years, with a league-leading 11 touchdown receptions in 2019. In five games this year — he's missed significant time with a hip injury — he has 20 receptions for 332 yards, with two touchdowns.

The case is playing out in United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. There also was a filing earlier this year with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, by France, asking a judge to uphold an NFL Players Association arbiter who ruled against Bernstein's demands for more than $2 million in damages. The arbiter ruled Bernstein couldn't prove France had approached Golladay first; opposing testimony alleged Golladay approached France in December 2018 and was looking to make a change in agents, according to the Sports Agent Blog.

Twitter: @tonypaul1984