To illustrate our point about the importance of state registration for agents, I thought I’d make today’s WSW about a series of phone calls we got last spring.
We’re fortunate to work with plenty of new NFLPA contract advisors who reach out to us when they have questions. Around May or June of 2013, several panicked callers told us about registered letters they’d received from the office of the Secretary of State of Texas. Each recipient had (a) signed a player who finished his college football eligibility with a Texas school and (b) not registered as an athlete agent in Texas. They had been threatened with significant fines by the AG if they couldn’t prove registration, or if they couldn’t counter charges that they had signed a player from a Texas school.
In almost every case, it was a first- or second-year certified contract advisor who had had no intention of recruiting players from Texas schools. However, as happens every December/January, each had gotten inquiries from unsigned players who had sifted through the NFLPA’s published listing of certified agents and cold-called them. These callers, like so many would-be draft prospects hoping to earn the attention of NFL teams, saw signing with an agent as the best way to jump-start their pro football dreams. Rather than waiting to be courted by potential representatives, they were doing their own courting, and they wound up signed by agents trying to do them favors. These agents, who were acting altruistically, had no idea they were setting themselves up for a major fine.
Ultimately, probably a half-dozen agents called with similar stories. None had signed a draftee, and I think only one even signed a player who went to a rookie tryout camp (he ultimately signed briefly in Canada). Still, these agents were facing fines. What’s more, the way the statute is written, even if they had signed a player who had been out of college for several years, they were facing fines if it was the player’s first agent. In the eyes of the state, even if the young man had been out of college football for years, he was still an amateur until he signed an SRA (standard representation agreement).
So what’s the rest of the story? I referred all the agents who had called me to a sports attorney I know and he was able to smooth things out with the state.
There are two takeaways from this experience. One, understand that statutes are written most often by people who see athlete agents as threats, and don’t really understand the business. The people writing these laws don’t understand that the overwhelming majority of contract advisors get in the business to help young players, not to suck money out of them. Real enforcement of laws and investigation of the firms signing high-end players might make a difference in cleaning up the business, but ultimately, this doesn’t win anyone votes and may cost a state’s team its title hopes. So very little gets done.
Be that as it may, you have to make sure you know the laws in the states as you decide where to recruit. Especially in Texas. That’s the second takeaway. Fines are an added cost you don’t want to incur.
More on the costs of the business on Thursday.