Earlier this week, I received quite a few calls from journalists asking my thoughts on a Texas sports agent bill that has passed through the state’s House of Representatives and Senate, and now awaits Texas Governor Rick Perry’s signature. What caught many people’s attention is a clause in the legislation that enables the state of Texas to potentially lock up a sports agent in prison for up to 10 years if he/she violates the anticipated law. In my opinion, Texas is just becoming the next state in a line of states passing new sports agent legislation in response to a drastic increase in sports agent media coverage over the past year. Until this law and new laws in California, Arkansas, Ohio, et al. are actually enforced, the laws are like sharp dentures that have not been placed in someone’s mouth. They look impressive and downright scary, but have no use unless applied.
My main question about the new sports agent legislation sweeping across the country is this: Why spend the time and effort to push these bills through state chambers instead of focusing on just enforcing the laws that are already on the books? All these state legislators who are sponsoring new sports agent bills are promoting their causes in the media, but the media is widely ignoring the fact that these states have had the tools to prosecute agents for their illegal acts for quite some time; they just have been sitting on their hands.
The focus really should not be about implementing harsher penalties. In fact, I find it hard to believe that a 10 year prison sentence to an agent who gives money to a student-athlete adequately matches the sentence to the crime committed. Further, I have recently wrestled with the idea that agents should not be penalized at all for providing any monetary benefit to student-athletes, but that is outside of the scope of this particular conversation. If there are going to be penalties attached to such activities, make those penalties reasonable, and actually enforce the law.
Examine the statement by Texas Rep. Harold Dutton: “Far too many times, agents have caused havoc for athletes and universities and walked away unscathed.” Again, enforce the laws that you and your predecessors fought to create in the past instead of wasting time peddling new legislation where the punishment does not fit the crime.