Former North Carolina sports agent Carl Carey lost another round on Thursday in his protracted legal tussle with Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin, two former North Carolina football players who made it to the NFL.
Carey and his company, Champion Pro Consulting Group, sued Quinn and Austin four years ago alleging that the players conspired with others to extract nearly $300,000 in expenses from Carey’s agency before another sports agent stepped in and negotiated Quinn’s $14.7 million contract with the St. Louis Rams. The team has since moved to Los Angeles
Carey, an adjunct professor at Lone Star College in Kingwood, Texas, has outlined seven counts of damages in his lawsuit that has gone through several renditions. One of those claims was that Austin conspired with, and was even paid to recruit for, Impact Sports and agents Christina White, Mitchell Frankel and Tony Fleming in luring Quinn away from Carey.
Austin and Quinn were among a group of North Carolina players suspended in 2010 for receiving improper benefits while playing college ball, allegations that became the first prong in the long-running athletics and academic fraud scandal at UNC. Both players were drafted by the NFL in 2011 – with Quinn getting a lucrative signing bonus as well.
Negotiations between the NFL and NFL Players’ Association in 2011 on a new collective bargaining agreement resulted in a 132-day lockout. Quinn, according to court documents, terminated his ties with Carey days before the lockout ended.
Since then, Carey has gone to the courts, seeking to recoup money that he contends Quinn and others owe him from an agreement the men made in December 2010.
The premise of Carey’s complaint is that Quinn’s business manager and wife, Christina White, served as an intermediary between Mitchell Frankel and Tony Fleming of Impact Sports. Austin is alleged to have conspired with and even paid to recruit for Impact Sports and White.
At one point, Carey alleged that Frankel, Fleming, Austin and Impact Sports engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices” in violation of the N.C. Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act, and added the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office into the case in an effort to seek sanctions against the player and agents.
U.S. District Judge William Osteen Jr. dismissed Carey’s lawsuit in July 2015, but Carey appealed to the Fourth U.S. Court of Appeals, which hears cases from North Carolina. On Thursday, a three-judge panel from the appellate court issued a ruling that affirmed Osteen’s ruling.
The panel found that Carey had not presented “overt evidence of retaliation.”
“The alleged conduct can be readily explained as defendants acting within the accepted confines of the industry in which they operated,” the ruling states. “This Court would be remiss, therefore, to superimpose the [Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act] upon the rough and tumble of NFL recruiting, a competitive arena in which the incentives are already carefully balanced by existing policies and reputations. To do so would distort those incentives in a manner detrimental to players and agents alike.”