After years of waiting, Union fans and observers across Major League Soccer now know the truth about just what happened during Nowak's tempestuous tenure as the team's manager.
On Tuesday, the federal judge presiding over Nowak's long-running wrongful termination lawsuit against the Philadelphia Union unsealed over 700 pages of evidence detailing acts of hazing and verbal abuse toward players, violations of federal labor law, and a range of acts barred by terms in Nowak's contract with the team.
For most of the three and a half years of Nowak's legal proceedings, many key details about just why Nowak was fired were kept sealed. The desire to keep the juicy stuff out of public view was shared by both sides in the dispute, as well as the arbitrator tasked with casting the official verdict on whether the Union was right. The federal judge who took the case when Nowak filed it in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania agreed.
Last summer, the case was reassigned to a new judge who had a different view of all that secrecy. On December 18, the new judge ordered almost everything unsealed, insisting that only players' names and private correspondence between players and the MLS Players' Union could be redacted.
Both sides were required to submit years' worth of arbitration briefs and other evidence by January 5. At the close of business on deadline day, a huge trove of information showed up on the public court docket.
The most eye-catching information is in a brief written by the Union's attorneys during the arbitration process. Among the team's charges:
- Nowak embarrassed the team and caused it financial damages in the form of fines by running onto the field and participating in a late-game brawl during the Union's April 21, 2012 game at Chivas USA.
- Nowak jeopardized his players' health and safety in May of 2012 by forcing them to run loops of a concrete trail at YSC Sports in Wayne, approximately 10 to 12 miles in total, and denying them water during it.
- Nowak then traded a player who went to the MLS Players Union to raise complaints about Nowak's poor treatment of the team, which violates the league's collective bargaining agreement with the players' union.
- Nowak downplayed the significance of concussions to players who had suffered them.
- Nowak used intermediaries including former New York Cosmos player? Shep Messing, now a TV analyst who calls games for multiple networks, to seek jobs with other soccer teams while employed as the Union's coach. In one instance, Nowak attempted to put his name in the running to replace Bob Bradley, the U.S. national team coach at the 2010 World Cup, if he was fired after that tournament. That effort began in late spring of 2010, just a few months into the Union's inaugural season.
- Nowak used underage players from the Union's youth academy in high-profile exhibition games in 2011, in violation of Major League Soccer's CBA. The team was subsequently banned from trading those prospects in the future without the league office's consent.
[Although the documents released do not contain names, I can confirm the names in this specific case: Cristhian Hernández in the Everton game, and Jimmy McLaughlin in the Real Madrid game. Both players are no longer with the team.]
- Nowak hazed players, most notably rookies, and most notably including spanking them, over multiple years. There were video cameras recording the episodes. Nowak's side countered this in its filings by claiming that former CEO and team co-founder Nick Sakiewicz approved of the activity before it happened, and condoned it afterward. The team disputed that.
These incidents and others ultimately caused Major League Soccer and the players' union to conduct investigations into Nowak's conduct. At one point, the players threatened to strike because of Nowak's contact. A top MLS executive also barred Nowak from being in contact with Union players, whose contracts are owned by the league. Subsequently, that executive requested that the Union fire Nowak.
(That request was the cause of Nowak's suit against MLS and the Players Union which alleged that they illegally interfered with his contract as the Philadelphia Union's head coach. However, that suit was thrown out last year.)
Much of the back-and-forth in the case, as I have written before, hinged on clauses in Nowak's contract that define the causes for which the team could fire him, and what opportunities Nowak had to be afforded to improve his behavior.
Nowak also argued that he should be paid the money remaining on his contract, as well as a $15,000 bonus for being named as the coach of the All-Star team in 2012. However, Nowak did not end up actually coaching in the game, as he was fired between the announcement and the contest itself.
The arbitrator, Margaret Brogan, ruled on April 21, 2015 that the Union was within its rights to fire Nowak when it did. As for the money, Brogan ruled that Nowak was only due any salary and bonus compensation that he was due but had not been paid on the date when he was fired. She did not grant Nowak's request to receive the All-Star Game bonus.
In addition, Brogan required Nowak to pay back over $100,000 in loan money the team had given him during his tenure, but that had not yet been repaid.
Brogan's final ruling on November 5, 2015 ordered Nowak's side to pay the over $450,000 in legal fees and costs incurred by the Union's attorneys during the years of proceedings.
Nowak's side subsequently appealed the arbitrator's ruling to the federal judge who is still overseeing the case. It has yet to be fully resolved.
So let's get to the meat. Here are excerpts from the various filings, sorted by subject. References to "claimant" are about Peter Nowak, and references to "Respondent" are about the Philadelphia Union.
You are warned that some of the language presented below is graphic. In addition, it is crucial to remember that each side's respective filings were, in part, attempts to establish their own versions of the facts. The arbitrator was tasked with deciding who was ultimately the most truthful, forthright, and legally correct. So I have separated statements within the subjects based on which side made them.
At the bottom of this post, you can download PDF files with the Union's claims, Nowak's claims and the arbitrator's conclusions and rulings. You can read the full archive of my coverage of the lawsuit here.
From the Union's filings
Claimant brought the Idea of spanking rookie players following training camps to the Philadelphia Union, as he had also spanked players when he was the head coach of DC United. Claimant admits that he participated in a practice following the training camps of 2010, 2011 and 2012 where players were spanked.
Claimant also admits that this practice included Claimant dipping his hand in ice water and then spanking the rookie players, sometimes choosing to hit the players with a sandal. Claimant further admits that [redacted] participated in the [redacted] training camp. At that time, Claimant physically spanked Mr. [redacted], who, again, was [redacted].
Importantly, Mr. Sakiewicz became aware of the "spanking" when he was shown a video of the ritual in [redacted].
Understanding this, as well as the fact that Claimant was actually physically hitting the rookie players - to the point that an ice bucket was needed to numb Claimant's hands - Mr. Sakiewicz, as soon as he and Claimant were alone, approached Claimant and told him that he did not want the "spanking" to happen again; he wanted Claimant to "cease doing it" immediately.
However, in March/April of [redacted], Sakiewicz found out that, contrary to his direct order to Claimant, the rookie hazing ritual - including the the spanking of a minor - had again taken place at the conclusion of training camp in February of [redacted]. In other words, Claimant ignored Mr. Sakiewicz's direct order for to cease "spanking" / hazing activities.
From Nowak's filings
Mr. Nowak did not deny that rookie hazing took place during his tenure as manager of the Philadelphia Union, including joking, singing, dancing and paddling of rookie players. Mr. Nowak also testified that prior to engaging in this activity, he received pre-approval from former Philadelphia Union President Tom Veit and from Nick Sakiewicz.
He did not deny sticking his hand in an ice bucket between paddling. In fact, he indicated that a videotape was taken each year by his assistant coaches, John Hackworth and Rob Vartughian, in 2010, 2011 and 2012. He further testified that he was present when those videotapes were shown to Mr. Sakiewicz and others and that Mr. Sakiewicz loved it and never instructed him after to stop the rituals:
Q. Okay. And your testimony is that Nick Sakiewicz did not instruct you after 2010 not to conduct the slapping.
A. Absolutely not. He saw it with Richie Graham in the lobby in the hotel in Costa Rica. Like in Crete in Greece, the sponsors were there from Colonial Marble. His wife was there with his son Nicholas, the youngest son. As I said there was an investor, new investor, Rich Graham in the lobby. John Hackworth or Rob Vartughian showed the videotape or whatever the recording. That was every year he was with us and he saw it, what was happening.
Former Philadelphia Union Sporting Director, Diego Gutierrez, confirmed these facts, stating that he saw Nick Sakiewicz watch the video on a telephone and laughed. He further confirmed that Mr. Sakiewicz did not criticize anyone about the hazing.
Mr. Sakiewicz testified that in the 2011 pre-season he travelled to Greece with the Team and that he was shown a video of the hazing. When asked about his reaction, he testified that while he was internally upset, because there were a lot of people around, he just "absorbed it."
He further testified that he "told Piotr that this wasn't something that we should do as a team; that I didn't want it to be done again; that it's not exemplary of the team that aspires to be at one time America's most admired soccer brand. And we agreed to disagree."
It is difficult to comprehend how Mr. Sakiewicz, who clearly was Mr. Nowak's boss, allegedly knew that Mr. Nowak disagreed with him, yet took no further action to ensure that the conduct was not repeated in 2012.
Hazing has been, from college fraternities to sports teams at any level, a bonding ritual engaged in with new members and rookies. While some forms of hazing can be dangerous (e,g. excessive drinking) the ritual followed by the Philadelphia Union was hardly in that category. To terminate Mr. Nowak for cause when no one in management made any real effort to enforce this non-existent "League rule" is a breach of the employment agreement.
Respondents' propensity for drama and overstatement is rampant throughout their brief and evidences their desperation to justify their improper conduct. For example, in discussing the paddling of rookie players admitted to by Mr. Nowak, the Team goes so far as to attempt to analogize Mr. Nowak's paddling with hazing that has resulted in death.
Unless Respondents can identify some "death by paddling" incident, what relevance deaths in other hazing scenarios has to the alleged "hazing" at the Philadelphia Union is inconceivable, particularly given that there was no suggestion at all that the paddling had changed or escalated to some dangerous level over the three years in which it had been done at the Philadelphia Union. Moreover, there is no evidence that any player had even complained about the paddling.
... the hazing of rookies, by spanking them, sometimes with a sandal, was completely unacceptable. Mr. Nowak brought this practice to the Philadelphia Union. His description of what he did was quite unnerving, especially when he described how he put his hand In a bucket of ice water to ease his pain, obviously because he was hitting the young people so hard. In the [redacted] one of the rookies spanked [redacted].
I take notice of the fact that Mr. Sakiewlcz was made aware of the hazing, and could have done more to stop it. I nevertheless conclude that the Claimant was responsible for, participated in, and encouraged his veteran players to participate In this deplorable practice.
From the Union's filings
Contrary to these [leaguewide] Protocols, which Claimant is contractually charged with knowing, Claimant would make light of the fact that players had concussions, and in fact, it was not uncommon for Claimant to call a player a "pussy" for having a concussion. Claimant would also tell players that they should not miss any time due to a concussion - you are weak if you are unable play through a concussion.
On June 1, 2012, Mr. [MLS Players Union head Bob] Foose was made aware of a pattern of abuse directed by Claimant against players who had suffered concussions, testifying on this point as follows:
Well, there are several things: a repeated suggestion that there's no such thing [as concussions], they don't exist, they're not real; a repeated suggestion that they don't have them in Germany, that players just take a pill and go on, the implication being that it's a toughness question; the denigration of players who had suffered them for not being able to get immediately back out on the field; statements about players who are recovering from concussions and happen to be eating at a training table and saying in front of the group or some group of players why do you need to eat, you're not even practicing, you don't have any need for food.
From Nowak's filings
Of course, neither the names or even quantity of players who made these accusations were ever provided so no cross-examination was available to Mr. Nowak. Even the MLS Report cautioned that many of the things the players reported were just things they had heard, but had not seen directly.
In the MLS Report, Mr. Rushing is attributed with saying that Mr. Nowak did not understand the concussion protocol. Mr. Nowak acknowledged as much: "So, as I said, I might not understand protocol, which I know what is the protocol, but it was not that I disobeyed any kind of regulations and rules of Major League Soccer concerning concussions."
In the end, Mr. Rushing testified that he knew of no incident when Mr. Nowak insisted that somebody play who had been diagnosed with a concussion. Respondents also presented the hearsay testimony of Bob Foose regarding statements to him from players he would neither quantify nor identify.
Subsequent response from the Union's side
Claimant - after hearing the testimony of [redacted], the first witness called by the Philadelphia Union to testify relative to the May 31, 2012 trail run - unilaterally offered to stipulate that all players would testify in the same manner as Mr. [redacted].
This point is important enough to immediately reiterate - Claimant, by his own initiative, proposed that the parties stipulate to the fact that all players - the same players Claimant now claims he was unable to "cross-examine" - would testify in the same fashion as Mr. [redacted].
Not only did Claimant fail to even attempt to "cross-examine" the players - the players he absolutely knew were on the team during the time period relevant to the MLS Report - during discovery, but he also limited - through a stipulation he initiated - his ability to cross examine the players the Philadelphia Union intended to call.
With the foregoing known, any limit on the ability of Claimant "to cross examine. those who accused him" was a result of Claimant's own actions or inactions and, thus, Claimant's "due process" argument is absolutely meritless and must fail.
... the "evidence" surrounding Mr. Nowak's treatment of concussions was all second or third hand, other than Mr. Nowak's credible testimony about two specific players who had concussions and the action he took to order helmets after these incidents.
Respondents did not offer testimony from a single player who had actually had concussion symptoms and/or been treated poorly by Mr. Nowak because of his symptoms. As with much of the evidence presented by Respondents, it was all hearsay by often unidentified speakers.
It Is simply unacceptable, given the common knowledge of the dangers of concussions, for a head coach to vilify those who suffered from symptoms, by calling players "pussies" or "weak." Mr. Nowak's testimony that he attempted to resolve this Issue by ordering helmets for players is an ineffective band-aid.
From the Union's filings
... it was hot and sunny about 80 degrees and humid. Shortly after the players arrived at the trail, Claimant directed them to begin running the trail; he did not inform them how far he was making them run, he simply told them to keep running until he told them to stop. After the players completed three lengths of the trail - approximately 4 miles ("First Interval") - he directed them to take a short break.
During the short break, Claimant admittedly told the players that they were prohibited from hydrating - from drinking any water - during the trail run. Generally speaking, it is the responsibility of the Athletic Trainers to ensure the players are appropriately hydrated during practices.
In this regard, at the time of the May 31, 2012 trail run, the Athletic Trainers brought 24 reusable "Gatorade" water bottles, which are 22-ounce "squirt" bottles, out to the trail - there was essentially at least on 22-ounce "squirt" bottle available for each players. Although these water bottles were available to the players, after the players completed the First Interval, Claimant refused to allow the players to use them. In fact, Claimant admits that he took the reusable squirt bottles provided by the Athletic Trainers from the players and threw them into the bushes.
... despite Mr. [Union head athletic trainer Paul] Rushing's repeated efforts to convince CIaimant that the denial of water to the players during the trail run jeopardized their health and safety, Claimant refused to concede his position - stating he "didn't care," he was "going to make men out of the players.
Additionally after initially arguing with Claimant regarding the players' access to water during the trail run, Mr. Rushing - as he was extremely concerned about players becoming dehydrated - tried to sneak water to the players, but Claimant, once again, physically took the water bottles from Mr. Rushing, walked through the players and threw the water bottles into the woods/bushes.
In fact, Claimant admits that he made the following statements to Mr, Rushing during the May 31, 2012 trail tun:
No [expletive] water, put the water back, water will make you lose focus and if you're thirsty you are weak.
... the May 31, 2012 training session was not the only time Claimant places limitations on the players. Indeed during the practice held on June 7, 2012, Claimant also placed a water volume limitation on the players, informing each player that they were limited to one bottle of water for the entire practice.
Prior to start of the May 31, 2012 trail run, Mr. Rushing conveyed his concerns regarding Mr. [redacted], Mr. [redacted] and Mr. [redacted] to Claimant. Claimant's response to Mr. Rushing was that everyone "was going to go outside, and, to Mr. Rushing's shock, Claimant made the injured players participate in the trail run once outside.
Even more shocking to Mr. Rushing was that Claimant also informed him that neither Mr. Rushing nor the team doctors were going to make decisions regarding the ability of a player to train or play in a game; these decisions were now going to be made by Claimant.
From Nowak's filings
The Team could have directed Mr. Nowak to not use the trail at YSC again, but they did not. The Team could have sat down with Mr. Nowak and discussed who had authority over the health and well-being of the players, in a similar manner in which they had addressed a previous issue regarding who had what authority. But there was no such conversation. The team could have sat Mr. Rushing and Mr. Nowak in a room and had them work out their differences.
Given that the team claims it had already told Mr. Nowak to cease the allegedly inappropriate aspects of hazing - notice which Mr. Nowak vehemently denies - the Team could have suspended Mr. Nowak pending a thorough investigation.
The team could have terminated Mr. Nowak and paid out the remainder of his contract.
Nonetheless, despite all these reasonable options, the Team took the most Draconian approach available to them, which suggests a complete lack of good faith.
Mr. Nowak testified that he knew it was going to be sunny, so he wanted to have the run in fhe "shadow" of the trail around the YSC. He further testified that he had both [former assistants] John Hackworth and Rob Vartughian check and they reported to him that it was "doable."
The Philadelphia Union did not present either Mr. Hackworth, Mr. Nowak's successor, or Mr. Vartughian to contest this fact.
While Respondents griped endlessly about the heat and humidity during the run, the reality is that it was a morning run, in the shade, on a nice, low humidity day - far less heat and humidity than at the World Cup in Brazil this year .
In fact, Claimant submitted Quality Controlled Local Climatological Data for the Philadelphia Area that shows a temperature of 78 degrees with 44% humidity at 9:54 a.m.; a temperature of 81 degrees with 34% humidity at 10:54 a.m.; 81 degrees with 33% humidity at 11:54 a.m.; and 80 degrees with 33% humidity at 12:54 p.m.
As for the length of the run, according to Respondents, it was somewhere between 7 and 12 miles. To give this some context, [redacted] testified that a defender would typically run 2 1/2 to 3 miles in each half of a game, while an offensive player would run about 8 miles in a half. Thus, the total distance was less than a full game for offensive players and only slightly more than a full game for defensive players.
Moreover, Mr. [redacted] acknowledged that no one instructed the players that they could not walk or jog. Even Mr. Rushing acknowledged that it was not his role or responsibility - rather it was Mr. Nowak's - to establish the amount of running that would be done during routine training and how long a training session would go.
For whatever reason - partially because Mr. Rushing got disgusted and left the trail before the training run was over, until the hearing, Mr. Rushing wrongfully assumed that the injured players were forced to run, and he was not even aware that Mr. Nowak had told the injured players they could walk. He undoubtedly shared this misinformation with Mr. Sakiewicz and others. This critical piece of misinformation may be what precipitated the wrongful termination of Mr. Nowak for "cause."
With respect to the third issue, hydration, the actual events that took place are largely undisputed, but just how confrontational the situation became and the intent behind those events is hotly contested.
I conclude that Mr. Nowak engaged in egregious behavior, threatening the safety and health of his players, with respect to the May 31, 2012 training run. After a difficult loss to Toronto, the Claimant held a team meeting, the intent of which was clearly to threaten players with being traded, mentioning Mr. [redacted] by name, and advising them that planned days-off would be cancelled, and further training would be scheduled. Given the Claimant's prior behavior, this threat had special significance.
While a coach certainly needs to motivate players, and to that end can require them to engage in arduous training, Mr. Nowak's actions here crossed the line.
From the Union's filings
On June 1, 2012 - the day after the May 31, 2012 trail run, and, presumably, after Mr. Foose spoke with Philadelphia Union players - Mr. Foose contacted Mr. [MLS executive vice president Todd Durbin to inform him of the actions taken by Claimant during the May 31, 2012 practice; specifically informing Mr. Durbin of the excessive length/intensity of the trail run, the fact that Claimant withheld water from the players during the run, the fact that Claimant required injured players to participate in the run, and the confrontation Claimant had with medical staff.
At or around the same time, Mr. Durbin was also made aware of Claimant's actions during the May 31, 2012 practice from Evan Dabby, who, at the time, was in charge of team trainers and medical operations for the League.
... the MLSPU felt so strong in its position relative to Claimant that it informed Mr, Durbin that it was contemplating a strike or withholding players from team activities if Claimant continued to coach the Philadelphia Union...
It is extremely important to reiterate and note here that Mr. Foose and Mr. Durbin were not made made aware of the Claimant's actions by Mr. Sakiewicz or any other member of the Philadelphia Union's management... Moreover, neither Mr. Sakiewicz nor any other member of the Philadelphia Union's management was involved in the investigation performed by the League.
As the players oft he Phlladelphia Union were "extremely afraid" of the potential "consequences" or "retaliation" if it became known that they participated in the League's investigation, the MLSPU asked the League to put a Confidentiality Agreement in place.
There was only one other instance in which the MLSPU asked the League to put in place a Confidentiality Agreement relative to a League investigation into misconduct - that other instance involved Claimant during Claimant's tenure as the head coach of another MLS team, DC United.
On Sunday night, June 10, 2012, while Mr. Sakiewicz was in Florida, Mr. Durbin called Mr. Sakiewicz to advise him of the results of the multiple League investigations into Claimant's actions. During their conversation, Mr, Durbln told Mr. Sakiewicz that the League was going to provide him with a formal report, but that, in the meantime, Claimant could not be near Philadelphia Union players.
Mr. Durbin further informed Mr. Sakiewicz that he wanted Claimant to be terminated the following day, on Monday June 11, 2012, specifically sending Mr. Sakiewicz the following email on June 11, 2012:
This cannot last until the weekend. You gave me your assurance this would happen wed. [sic]. It was my recommendation for it to happen this morning.
Mr. Sakiewicz, however, wanted, and, in fact, requested additional time before making a final determination to terminate Claimant. As the Philadelphia Union had two games coming up, he wanted to receive and review the actual League report to confirm the results of the league's investigation, and he wanted time to talk to the Philadelphia Union owners and investors.
Mr. Durbin - within several back and forth emalls with Mr. Sakiewicz on June 11, 2012 - informed Mr. Sakiewicz that Claimant had to be terminated no later than the morning of Wednesday, June 13, 2012 - specifically telling Mr. Sakiewicz that Claimant "cannot train the team on [Wednesday, June 13, 2012]..."
The day before the deadline imposed by Mr. Durbin, on June 12, 2012, Mr. Sakiewicz received an email from Mr. Durbin attaching an MLS Report detailing the results of the League's investigation into the multiple complaints it received relative to Claimant.
The following day. the Philadelphia Union - based upon the directive of Mr. Durbin as well as Paragraph Ill(A)(8) of the Employment Agreement - exercised its discretionary right to terminate the Employment Agreement.
After receiving the June 12, 2012 email, including the MLS Report, from Mr. Durbin, Mr. Sakiewicz believed he had no choice but to terminate the Employment Agreement, specifically testifying:
I fired [Claimant] for the six reasons that I outlined in my memo that everybody has seen ad nauseam, principally because I was protecting the health and welfare of our players, and that was the primary reason.
I was disgusted by all of this. I still am. I'm kind of emotional about it now because I'm having to recant it all But as a former, player, you have to play with a smile on your face and l had a team with no smiles, And I needed to protect the health and welfare of those 30 guys in that locker room, That was first and foremost.
But there were five other reasons why I terminated him,and they're all outlined in that memo.
Mr. Sakiewicz was left without a choice when it came to the timing of Claimant's termination because:
Because the pressure - and I say "pressure," but it's probably a bad word - the strong recommendation from two men who I had greatly respected at the League, Todd Durbin and Don Garber, the report that I had been sent the day before corroborating a lot that was going on the weeks prior that I had known about, some of which that I had investigated myself, like the run, and it was an emergent situation.
Because that phone call that I got on Sunday night [from Mr. Durbin on June 10, 2012], I mean, I didn't believe what I was hearing from Todd Durbin. And, again, you know, I've been a pretty consistent manager over 20-some-odd years. I don't knee-jerk decision make.
This was a coach that I fought pretty hard to sign and bring to the club. This was a person's livelihood that I had in my hand, and, you know, undisputed coaching capabilities. So I wasn't going to make a knee-jerk decision.
But that report [MLS Report]; when I received it on the 12th, was the final equation to what I was having to deal with for the six to eight weeks leading up to it.
From Nowak's filings
At the heart of the basis for Mr. Nowak's termination for "cause" are the contents of a putative MLS Investigation Report dated June 12, 2012. Yet, no one provided Mr. Nowak with a copy of the MLS Report prior to his termination meeting, during his termination meeting or over the course of the 10-month period following his termination.
It was not until April 22, 2013 that counsel for Respondents provided the MLS Report to Mr. Nowak for the first time through current counsel for the Philadelphia Union. The Report identifies only one interviewee by name, Paul Rushing, the Philadelphia Union Head Athletic Trainer. The Report mentions that "various Philadelphia Union players" were interviewed, but they were never identified by name.
Because the MLS Investigation Report was clearly central to Mr. Nowak's termination, Mr, Nowak and his Counsel repeatedly requested a copy of the Report, At the time, Respondents were represented by counsel... who refused to provide the report, yet made representations to the undersigned counsel that Mr. Nowak had engaged in "criminal and fraudulent."
Despite this fact, brief settlement discussions took place but when it became clear that no resolution could be made, Mr, Nowak filed a breach of contract suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Throughout the hearing, Mr, Nowak requested that the individuals interviewed by MLS be identified so that Mr. Nowak could cross examine these individuals, Respondents objected to providing this information, asserting that it was confidential information and protected speech under the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act].
Not only was Mr. Nowak denied the ability to cross examine those who accused him, but respondents also refused to even identify the number of players who were interviewed, Mr. Nowak was prejudiced by this conduct [and] an adverse inference should be drawn against the Respondents.
The testimony was clear that Mr. Nowak was not even made aware of the MLS investigation into his conduct until the investigation was referenced in an e-mail to him less than two hours prior to his termination. The testimony was also clear that Mr. Nowak was never interviewed by anyone at MLS in connection with the allegations set forth in the MLS Report.
In addition, Mr. Sakiewicz testified that he conducted his own investigation. yet, even he was forced to admit that he did not interview or otherwise inquire with Mr. Nowak regarding the allegations contained in the MLS Report.
Mr. Sakiewicz speaks out of both sides of his mouth, one minute supporting Mr. Nowak as a coach with "undisputed coaching capabilities" while the next minute he fails to support his coach by even listening to Mr. Nowak's version of the events that lead [sic] to the accusations against him. Mr. Sakiewicz ultimately claims to have cracked under the pressure from MLS arid its Players Union to keep Mr. Nowak away from the players.
There is no evidence that the Commissioner of the League directed the Philadelphia Union to fife Mr. Nowak... I conclude that the MLS and/or MLSPU did not direct or require the Club to fire Mr. Nowak.
From the Union's filings
On July 21, 2011, Claimant started an Academy player in an exhibition game against Everton FC, an English Premier League team. It was a violation of the MLSPU rules to play an Academy Player in this exhibition game.
The following day, on July 22, 2011, Mr. Durbin sent an email to all League Coaches and Technical Directors providing them with a Memo outlining that Trialist and Academy Players are not allowed to participate in gated [for which tickets were sold] exhibition games (hereinafter, the "Memorandum"). Claimant acknowledges that he received the email from Mr. Durbin sending the Memorandum.
After receiving the email with the Memorandum, Diego Gutierrez, who was hired by Claimant as the Sporting Director, contacted Mr. Foose and asked whether the Philadelphia Union could use Academy Players for their game against Real Madrid. Mr. Foose informed Mr. Gutierrez that he could not - it was prohibited.
Despite his receipt of the Memorandum and the conversation Mr. Gutierrez had with Mr. Foose, Claimant ignored a League rule and played an Academy Player during the Real Madrid game. Claimant's decision in this regard "caused a lot of angst around the league."
Nevertheless, on August 25, 2011 - approximately one month after he allowed an Academy Player to play against Real Madrid - Claimant also permitted a Trialist player to play in a gated exhibition game against the Harrisburg Islanders.
Claimant's playing of the Trialist player in the gated exhibition game against the Harrisburg Islanders was his second violation of the Memorandum sent by Mr. Durbin - second violation in the month since the issuance of the Memorandum. More disturbingly, Claimant spoke with Mr. Durbin and informed him that he understood it was a violation for the unsigned (Trialist) player to participate in the gated exhibition game, but that he decided to play the player anyway. He also informed Mr. Durbin that he disagreed with the rule and would do it again.
As a result of Claimant's action in blatantly ignoring this League Rule, the Commissioner of Major League Soccer, Don Garber, fined the Philadelphia Union $25,000. The Philadelphia Union was able to get the $25,000 fine reduced to $15,000 through negotiation with the League, but the other $10,000 was held in abeyance in case there were any future violations.
Furthermore, within the Philadelphia Union organization, the Team Manager is responsible for the signing of all Homegrown Players.
In this regard, on or about May 1, 2012, the League concluded that the Philadelphia Union violated the League's Home Grown Player rule and sanctioned it as follows: (1) loss of $75,000 in allocation money; (2) a $35,000 fine payable immediately; and (3) should the player be transferred - which is a determination that will now be solely made by the League - the League will retain 2/3's of the transfer revenue with the Philadelphia Union only receiving 1/3.
From Nowak's filings
... the Club's repeated references to the July 2011 playing of Academy Player [redacted] in the Everton game; the August 2011 playing of Trialist player [redacted], in a gated exhibition game; the email fiasco that ensued after Mr. [Rick] Jacobs failed to copy Mr. Nowak on an e-mail proposing a Philadelphia Union Academy & High School Coaches Open Forum; and the reference to Mr. Nowak receiving a red card in a reserve game in April of 2011 are nothing but red herrings.
From the Union's filings
Before the Parties entered into the Employment Agreement, the Philadelphia Union was required to negotiate a "buy-out" for Claimant relative to his then current contract with the United States Soccer Federation ("U.S. Soccer").
More specifically, the Philadelphia Union, through Mr. Sakiewicz, negotiated and paid a $75,000 buyout to U.S. Soccer in order to release Claimant from his contract. Given that invested significant resources - including the $75,000 payment to U.S. Soccer - to bring Claimant to the team, the Philadelphia Union had concerns about Claimant returning to U.S. Soccer while he was still under contract with the Philadelphia Union.
Accordingly, the Parties included the following language within Paragraph VII of the Employment Agreement:
Furthermore, during the Term, [Claimant] shall not (1) engage in discussions with any other professional soccer team regarding employment by such team...
Claimant testified that he understood that, during the term of the Employment Agreement, he was prohibited from engaging in "any discussions with any clubs[,] and if any clubs or federations or national teams would like to engage with [Claimant] in discussion of the contract, that they need need to seek the permission of the Philadelphia Union.
Nevertheless, Claimant, contrary to the terms of Paragraph VII, engaged in discussions with and otherwise sought employment with other professional soccer teams - including U.S. Soccer - on several occasions during the time he was employed with the Philadelphia Union.
While he was still employed by the Philadelphia Union, Claimant reached out to his former player representative and current sports broadcaster, Shep Messing, in an effort to seek other employment. Pertinent in this regard, Claimant and Mr. Messing were very close and, in fact, Mr. Messing acted as Claimant's advisor during the time Claimant was employed as the head coach of DC United - another MLS team.
Mr. Messing's advisor relationship was to a degree where Claimant believed it necessary to give Mr. Messing a championship ring after DC United won the MLS championship [in 2004].
Their relationship was to the point that Claimant would refer players to Mr. Messing to represent and Mr. Messing actually recommended Claimant to Mr. Sakiewicz for the head coaching position with the Philadelphia Union.
According to testimony of Mr. Messing - an unbiased and independent witness - in April/May of 2010, before the start of the 2010 Men's World Cup in South Africa, Claimant contacted Mr. Messing and told him that, if the United States Men's National Soccer Team did not do well in the World Cup, he wanted to take over for Bob Bradley as Head Coach of the Men's National Soccer Team.
Then, the week after the Men's National Soccer Team lost in South Africa, Claimant called Mr. Messing and asked Mr. Messing to speak to Sunil Gulati - President of U.S. Soccer - and see if Claimant could become the next Head Coach of the Men's National Soccer Team - he wanted to take over for Bob Bradley in this regard, who was still under contract with U.S. Soccer at the time. Although he was reluctant to, Mr. Messing did in fact reach out to Mr. Gulati on Claimant's behalf - specifically notifying Mr. Gulati that Claimant was interested in Bob Bradley's position.
... in 2012, while Claimant was still employed by the Philadelphia Union, Claimant again contacted Mr. Messing in an effort to seek other employment. This time, Claimant asked Mr. Messing whether he could find Claimant a coaching position in Europe, specifically asking Mr. Messing to investigate a coaching position with the Polish National Team, a coaching opportunity in Scotland, and coaching possibilities in England.
At the same time - in 2012, while he was still employed by the Philadelphia Union - Claimant also asked Mr. Messing for the contact information of sports agent, Michael Morris, as Claimant thought Mr. Morris could help him find another coaching position in Europe.
As requested by Claimant - again, during the time he was employed with the Philadelphia Union - Mr. Morris also testified that he actually reached out on Claimant's behalf to clubs in the U.K., America, Dubai and Europe - informing these clubs that Claimant was looking for a coaching position. As several of the clubs Mr. Morris reached out to on behalf of Claimant asked for a copy of Claimant's CV/resume, Mr. Morris sent Claimant's CV/resume to the Clubs.
... Claimant also testified that he never told Shep Messing that Mr. Sakiewicz did not know what he was doing and/or that the Philadelphia Union did not have any money. Mr. Messing, however, specifically testified that Claimant made both of these statements to him.
Claimant also initially testified that Shep Messing did not bring him to the United States as a player, but, a few moments later, changed his testimony and explicitly stated "[a]nd I communicate that to Mr. Messing, who was very upset that he brought me here [to the United States], [yet] he didn't even have commission for my playing time here in United States, and l didn't give him anything."
From Nowak's filings
Mr. Messing also testified about an alleged conversation he had with Mr. Nowak after the U.S. Open Cup game at Red Bull Arena in 2011*, during which the "gist" of the conversation, according to Mr. Messing, was that Piotr told him "I have to get the hell out of Philadelphia. These guys are stupid. They don't know what they're doing and they're broke. They have no money."
Mr. Messing later testified that he was "disgusted" that Mr, Nowak was seeking Mr. Bradley's job, given that Mr. Bradley had been part of bringing Mr. Nowak to the U.S. He also testified that in 2012, he failed to return a number of Mr. Nowak's calls and ultimately referred him to Mike Morris, a European agent.
* - I figure you're probably wondering what specific game Nowak was at, because the Union didn't play the Red Bulls in the Open Cup that year. It was the Red Bulls vs. a now-defunct USL team called FC New York.
... the only testimony regarding disparaging remarks by Mr. Nowak was that "in confidence" he told Mr. Messing "I have to get the hell out of Philadelphia. These guys are stupid. They don't know what they're doing and they're broke. They have no money."
If Mr. Nowak actually said this, while this was undoubtedly not Mr. Nowak's wisest moment, the suggestion that it constitutes a material breach for which he can be terminated without notice or the opportunity to cure is unreasonable, if not laughable.
Furthermore, the concerns were, at the time, justified. The team had not - and could not - pay its required franchise fee. It was reasonable for any employee to be concerned about their security and future.
[After these documents were released, I asked the Union for clarification about the franchise fee payment situation. I was told: "As agreed upon with MLS at the time of expansion, we were placed on a scheduled payment plan that we duly met."
In addition, it's worth noting that it has long been standard practice in MLS for expansion teams to pay their expansion fees in installments instead of all at once. In December, Garber told Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl that Los Angeles FC, which will launch in 2017, is the first club that has ever paid its fee with one check up front.]
The Employment Agreement only prohibits Mr. Nowak from actually "engaging in discussions" with other professional soccer teams. Mr. Nowak had no discussions himself, nor did he direct any authorized representative [to] have have such a discussion with another professional soccer team on his behalf. At the time of the alleged discussion, Mr. Messing was not Mr. Nowak's agent nor was he even a registered agent with MLS.
From the Union's filings
... Claimant became aware of the [redacted] complaint [which] was brought to the attention of the MLSPU, as Mr. [former Union assistant coach Diego] Gutierrez not only informed him of the complaint, but Claimant was copied on the emails exchanged between Mr. Gutierrez and Mr. Foose.
After being made aware of the [redacted] issue, Claimant met with the Philadelphia Union's two [redacted] in his office. During this meeting, Claimant initially asked Mr. [redacted] and Mr. [redacted] whether they or another member of the team raised an issue with the MLSPU [redacted]. Claimant then informed Mr. [redacted] and Mr. [redacted] that issues, [redacted], should be brought to the Claimant and not the MLSPU - directing them to not contact the MLSPU.
After meeting with Mr. [redacted] and Mr. [redacted] in his office, Claimant held a team meeting and communicated the same message to the team - that issues [redacted] should be brought to his attention and not the MLSPU. As testified to by Mr. [redacted] during this team meeting, Claimant said:
... that we should not involve the Players Union for something that we can handle internally.
Claimant actually acknowledges that he told the players not to involve the MLSPU, specifically testifying that, during this team meeting, he told the players the following:
... So if any kind of issues will occur, I told them basically that please, if you have any kind of concerns, any issues ... just to tell them if you have any kind of issues, please see us first so we will not have problems or questions from the Players Union about any kind of concerns you have or you might have in the future.
Following the team meeting, Claimant still did not believe the issue was resolved, he was determined to identify the player that brought the [redacted] issue to the attention of the MLSPU - the player that betrayed him - that went behind his back to the MLSPU.
Indeed, shortly after holding the team meeting, Claimant called Mr. [redacted] and, again, asked him who went to the MLSPU with the [redacted] issue, specifically asking Mr. [redacted] whether he was the one that brought the issue to the MLSPU.
Although Claimant denies making this call, another Philadelphia Union player, [redacted], was present at the time Mr. [redacted] received the phone call from claimant and confirmed, through his testimony, that Claimant did in fact make this call to Mr. [redacted].
Claimant also separately called Mr. [redacted] in an attempt to ascertain the identity of the player that brought the [redacted] issue to the MLSPU. During this conversation with Mr. [redacted], Claimant also reiterated his belief that there was no need to use the MLSPU for issues that arise; they can be handled internally.
Apparently unsatisfied with refusal of Mr. [redacted] and Mr. [redacted] to reveal the identity of the player that brought the [redacted] issue to the MLSPU, Claimant decided to contact Mr. Foose. During his conversation with Mr. Foose, who, again, is the head of the MLSPU, Claimant not only informed Mr. Foose that he did not think it was appropriate for players to be talking to the MLSPU, but he also specifically asked Mr. Foose to identify the player that brought the [redacted] issue to his attention - to the attention of the MLSPU.
This was an "extremely unusual conversation" for Mr. Foose, as he never before had a conversation where a coach asked him to disclose the identity of a player that raised an issue with the MLSPU. Notwithstanding the unusualness of his conversation with Claimant, Mr. Foose did not immediately contact the league, as he was made aware of the communications between Claimant and Mr. [redacted] and he was afraid Claimant would retaliate against Mr. [redacted].
Mr. Foose's apprehension in this regard turned out to be completely warranted, as claimant, admittedly, believed that Mr. [redacted] brought the [redacted] issue to the attention of the MLSPU. Mr. [redacted] was traded a mere two weeks after Claimant made the telephone call to Mr. [redacted] specifically asking him whether he was the one who raised the issue with the MLSPU.
Interestingly, while Claimant maintains that the trade of Mr. [redacted] was not retaliatory in nature, the record evidence establishes that, during an emotional statement made by Claimant after the May 26, 2012 game against Toronto - a game or two after Mr. [redacted] was traded - Claimant threatened the team, specifically stating that:
... he couldn't be fired ... he wasn't afraid to do anything in regards to the team ...
... he wasn't afraid to shake the tree ... he had traded away the [redacted] and [the] leading goal scorer ... [he] wasn't afraid to make moves and to roll with it.
Accordingly, while Claimant maintains that his trading of Mr. [redacted] was not retaliatory, the record evidence establishes that Claimant used his trading of Mr. [redacted] [redacted] referred to in his emotional statement, to threaten the players. In other words, do not cross him, or you will be traded.
From Nowak's filing
[Redacted] testified similarly that Mr. Nowak said "that when we had complaints, that we didnt'need to immediately go to the Players Union and to seek out himself and one of the other people on the staff and to bring the complaints to them first before we had gone to the Union, Players Union."
Mr. [redacted]'s testimony was perhaps the clearest in illustrating that Mr. Nowak was simply promoting an open door policy where efforts to resolve issues could first be made between coaches/staff and players before elevating them to the Players Union.
While the Unlon urges the Arbitrator to conclude that Mr. [redacted]'s trade to [redacted] was a retaliatory action for Mr. [redacted] having raised the [redacted] issue, Mr. Gutierrez emphatically denied that had anything to do with the trade. Rather, Mr. Gutierrez stated that Mr. [redacted] "had lost his step, he was not good enough anymore." He went on to say that Mr. [redacted] had a good year in [redacted], but after the off season "came back a different player where he was a lot slower."
Mr. Nowak echoed these reasons for Mr .[redacted]'s trade, saying, "I'm going to say he didn't play bad, he got bad season, and I received a text message from Mr. Sakiewicz, after one of the games, that he cost us the game and we have to do something about it."
Respondents introduced testimony that a grievance was filed by the MLSPU, but never introduced any evidence that the matter was raised to the NLRB or that a formal finding that Mr. Nowak had violated the NLRA was made.
First, I conclude that Mr. Nowak interfered with players' rights to engage In union activities. His actions are textbook examples of attempts to interfere with, restrain or coerce employees from engaging in their protected right to consult with their Players' Union representatives regarding their concerns over terms and conditions of employment without reprisal.
Mr. Nowak acknowledged his behavior to Mr. Sakiewlcz, demonstrating he did not understand the coercive effect of his actions on the players.
[Redacted] was traded only a few weeks later. A reasonable inference may be drawn that this decision was an act of retaliation by Mr. Nowak, given Mr. Nowak's above behavior, as well as his testimony that he believed it was either Mr. [redacted] who had made the complaints about the issue.
From Nowak's filing
Mr. Sakiewicz and Mr. Nowak spoke a number of times between November 2008 and March of 2009. Mr. Nowak made very clear that he wanted a long-term contract of 5 or 6 years and that he wanted autonomy over the team.
Mr. Sakiewicz acknowledged that "coaches with Piotr's background and Piotr's profile need long-term commitments. Because contracts of this length were "unprecedented" in MLS, in the words of Mr. Sakiewicz, they ran into "some challenges," but in the end, the Philadelphia Union committed to Mr. Nowak through the end of 2015. According to Mr. Sakiewicz, "we ended up shaking hands on a deal that that made everybody happy at Major League Soccer, made other owners in the League happy; and I think gave Piotr the comfort that he would be with us for a long time."
In June of 2009, Mr. Nowak and the Philadelphia Union signed the Employment Agreement which contracted Mr. Nowak as the Manager of the Philadelphia Union for the period from June 1, 2009 to December 31, 2012. than changes in the term of the Employment Agreement, Mr. Nowak's title and compensation, and the addition of a loan, the terms of the Employment Agreement substantially remained in place until Mr. Nowak's termination in June of 2012.
After the 2010 season, Mr. Nowak and the Team entered into a new agreement December 20, 2010 which named Mr. Nowak the Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and extended his contract through December 31, 2015 but did not change his base compensation during the term.
In reliance on the expectation that he would be in the Philadelphia area, at least through the end of 2015, Mr. Nowak began the process of finding a suitable home in the area. In connection with the purchase of the home, Mr. Nowak needed additional cash at closing which was provided to him through a Loan and advance...
On or about December 20, 2011, the parties voided the December 20, 2010 agreement and entered into a new agreement agreement which incorporates the Employment Agreement, reaffirms the extension of the term of Mr. Nowak's employment [to] December 31, 2015, and provides for substantial annual increases to Mr. Nowak's base salary. The Employment Agreement and December 20, 2011. Amended Employment Agreement combined provide Mr. Nowak with a total Base Salary for the period from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2015 in excess of $1.5 million.
There is no dispute that the Club has refused to pay Mr. Nowak the remainder of the compensation due Mr. Nowak under the Employment Agreement and Amended Employment Agreement. Rather, the Club has taken the position that they need not pay Mr. Nowak because he was terminated for "cause." As a result of having not been paid the remainder of his contract, Mr. Nowak has not repaid the Loan or the Advance.
Even if the Arbitrator does find that the "cause" standard could be met, the Team materially breached the contract first by failing to provide Mr. Nowak with three contractual prerequisites to his lawful termination for cause: (1) reasonable details regarding the reason for his termination; (2) a meaningful opportunity to respond to the accusations; and (3) an opportunity to cure any defects in his performance. Respondents' insistence that the concerns they raised were not curable is not made in good faith.
The suggestion that Mr. Nowak created a "culture of fear" is not supportable. But for the run issue, there is no evidence that Mr. Nowak was an abusive coach or even one that was disliked by his players. Clearly, Mr. Sakiewicz and Mr. Nowak did not get along.
One can easily argue that Mr. Sakiewicz was as much at fault as Mr. Nowak in fueling this fire. The claim that a "culture of fear" existed is nothing more than that: an unsubstantiated claim. The evidence showed that Mr. Nowak was a popular coach among the fans and that there was real concern about fan reaction to his firing.
Much of the evidence exposes a testosterone-fueled event. The Players Union, in its advocacy role fuels the fire by complaining to the League. The League, to appease the protestations of the Players Union, concluded that Mr. Nowak should be thrown to the wolves, giving Mr. Sakiewicz putative cover to assert his authority over a coach with whom he clashes.
Mr. Nowak, who by all accounts was a brilliant coach with an unblemished record going into his job with the Philadelphia Union has had the rug pulled out from under him by what amounted to a power play. Fire him if you will, but honor his contract when you do that.
Professional athletes and their coaches fall out of favor with their employers all the time. Even novice sports enthusiasts recognized that the separation of a player or coach from a team is often dictated or impeded by an existing contract. Buy him out if need be but you cannot ignore either the terms or the spirit of a contract.
... for 2013, 2014, and 2015, Mr. Nowak is owed his full base salary which totals $1,1899,996. In total, Nowak is owed $1,396,450.01 in Base Salary.
With respect to bonuses, the Employment Agreement provides that Mr. Nowak is entitled to a bonus of $15,000 if "Manager is selected as head Coach for the League's All-Star Game."
On April 11, 2012, the Philadelphia Union announced that Mr. Nowak had been selected as the Head Coach for the League's All-Star Game, and we ask the Arbitrator to take judicial notice of this fact. The Bonus schedule did not require Mr. Nowak to coach that game, but rather to simply be selected, The Team's decision to terminate him so that he was not permitted to actually coach the game is immaterial to Mr. Nowak's entitlement to the bonus money.
In addition, whether there has been an overt effort to blackball Mr. Nowak or not, Mr. Nowak has been unable to secure a position in Major League Soccer even as an assistant coach, technical director or Sporting Director.
As set forth more fully in Mr. Nowak's Post-Hearing Brief, deep down, Respondents know they failed to offer Mr. Nowak the opportunity [to] cure as required under most provisions of the Employment Agreement.
Arbitrator's Final Decsions
On the basis of the record evidence and the arguments of the parties, I conclude that Claimant has failed to prove that his firing was in violation of the Employment Agreement. Rather, I conclude that Claimant, through his conduct, violated the terms of the Employment Agreement, and Respondent had the right to terminate him without being required to compensate him from the period of his termination through the end of his contract.
Mr. Nowak was a talented coach, with a fiery and passionate disposition. The Philadelphia Union was aware of these traits, and knew what they were "buying" when they brought him in as their first coach. Mr. Nowak achieved success, and at the end of 2011, the Philadelphia Union extended his contract until December 2015. However, Mr. Nowak engaged in a course of conduct in 2012 that justified his termination.
I conclude that Respondent did not violate the Employment Agreement in the manner it terminated the Claimant, nor did they act in bad faith. Moreover, on the basis of the arbitral evidence, I find Respondent reasonably exercised its discretion under the Employment Agreement by reaching the conclusion that Claimant could not cure his misconduct.
Based upon all the above, I find that Claimant engaged in egregious conduct, within the language of 1.III (A) of the Employment Agreement. AccordingIy, Claimant has not demonstrated that Respondent violated the Employment Agreement by terminating Claimant.
In accordance with the Employment Agreement, Claimant is entitled to only the base salary amount and all bonuses earned but not paid as of date of termination. Claimant here has requested that he receive the contract bonus for being selected as Head Coach of the MLS AII-Star Game in 2012.
I take judicial notice that Claimant was so selected prior to his firing, but due to his breach of the Employment Agreement,he was unable to serve in that position as the game took place after his termination.
It is implicit that the parties agreed that the Claimant would be able to serve as Coach of the All-Star Game in order to be entitled to the bonus; therefore Claimant did not "earn" the bonus. Accordingly, I shall deny Mr, Nowak's claim that he receive those bonus monies. There was no argument made by Claimant that he did not receive his base compensation up to his termination.
In light of the stipulation of the parties at hearing as to amount and rate of Interest, Claimant is ordered to pay Respondent in full the amount unearned at the time Claimant was terminated, or $46,680.33 plus accumulated interest at 8% until paid, for the Advance under the Pino Agreement.
In light of the stipulation of the parties at hearing as to amount and rate of interest, Claimant is ordered to pay Respondent in full the amount unpaid at the time Claimant was terminated, or $53.717 plus accumulated interest at 7% until paid, for the Loan pursuant to the 2011 Extension Employment Agreement.
The Protective Order of November 13, 2013 shall remain in effect indefinitely and extends to the Awards issued in this arbitration matter, unless the release of said Awards is mandated by law and/or ordered by a Court.
The Claimant is hereby ordered to reimburse Respondent for attorneys' fees and costs incurred in this arbitration proceeding, in the amount of $381,317,00 in fees and $20,910,11 in costs.
The Claimant is hereby ordered to reimburse Respondent for attorneys' fees and costs incurred in defending the lawsuit filed by the Claimant in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District and successfully compelling arbitration, in the amount of $52,031,78 in fees and costs.
From the Union's filings
As a result of Claimant's filing of the Eastern District Complaint [in federal court], ignoring the unambiguous arbitration provision ultimately enforced by the Court and without filing it under seal, information protected by the Confidentiality Provision became public - affecting the Philadelphia Union - the media wrote about it, fans opined about it and there was a lot of traffic on social media.