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A Rookie Wage Scale Could Lower Agent Commissions

Fourth & Goal is a national non-profit organization made up of former NFL players, that operates to do the following:

  • Gain representation for retired players;
  • Advocate for improved pension and disability benefits for retired players; and
  • Raise funds to provide immediate assistance for retired players in need.

The organization has also been advocating for a Rookie Wage Scale.  Such a scale would undoubtedly affect Contract Advisor compensation.

Written in May 2010, Jeff Nixon’s article, NFL Player Agents can’t touch player “benefit” money, is still a relevant read.

The article starts off with a statement made by CAA’s Ben Dogra who said to Yahoo!’s Jason Cole, “You still have a certain amount of money that’s going to be spent on players regardless of where it goes, right? We’re still talking about the same percentage of money that goes to the agents. It just comes from a different place.”  The claim was in reference to the implementation of a rookie wage scale.  As Nixon points out, Dogra may not realize that he and his company actually stand to make less money under such a system.

Nixon alleges that the re-allocated money could be classified as a “benefit”.  Under the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors, “compensation” does not include any collectively bargained benefits.  And if there is a stipulated amount of money given to veterans as a benefit based on less money paid to rookies, then Dogra and other Contract Advisors may not be able to touch it.

Nixon goes on to state that Contract Advisors may be violating the NFLPA Regulations by taking a percentage of a player’s performance-based pay from the Player Performance Pool (PPP), as it is also classified as “benefit money”.

Agents should understand all of the potential arguments and effects of a Rookie Wage Scale before publicly advocating or negating its adoption.  Fourth & Goal is one organization that is aiming to provide more information about the scale’s possible effects.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

14 replies on “A Rookie Wage Scale Could Lower Agent Commissions”

Nixon is wrong. Agents “may be violating the NFLPA regs by assessing fees on performance based pay” – there is no may be about it. It is absolutely prohibited to charge an agent fee on money earned under the performance based pay system. Can’t do it.

The below blog entries are not thought through very well. Dogra made a comment in the Cole article as to a potential solution to pacify agents in the (likely) event that a rookie wage scale is implemented. Nixon’s response is to write a “not so fast Dogra” article, stating the obvious point that NFLPA contract advisors are not allowed to take benefit money, making it seem that he had just scored a point in the game of “gotcha”. Nowhere in the article is there any mention of the obvious reality that ther NFLPA could amend its regulations to permit a solution along the lines of that which was suggested by Dogra.

Heitner responds by echoing the sentiments of Nixon, suggesting that Dogra should not be permitted to violate NFLPA regulation, and even goes as far as to the concept that Dogra should be investigated, and implying that Dogra should “understand all arguments” about the rookie wage scale before making a public comment.

All of this over one comment about a potential solution to a difficult hurdle to clear in the road to labor peace under the next CBA. Not exactly well-reasoned forward thought.

Oh come on. No one should be permitted to violate an NFLPA regulation, but to assume that I implied that Dogra should be investigated is going well beyond the purpose of the post.

If these funds are reallocated as a benefit for veteran players, it seems only fair that agents be able to, very fairly, request an increase in the maximum fee they can attain from a player for negotiations. Unless the rookie wage scale is being implemented as a device for corralling agent earnings, the NFLPA should somehow compensate agents for this lack of income. One possible solution, which I think could be effective is simply raising the amount an agent can earn from a rookie contract. It seems to me that rookies are the least experienced and the most labor intensive players to represent and there for agents should be rewarded for the added effort those players demand.

I’m not sure agents can argue for an increased commission. But an argument can be made for the standard 3% commission still applying. Athletes are still going to want their agents to pay for combine training. Additionally, athletes are going to want the security of having an agent through the process of the draft and their first contract. So in place for combine training, education, and security, a player will likely give up the 3% commission in the event of a wage scale. Thoughts?

Why pay an agent 3% for paying training costs? Might as well take out a small loan and pay it back right away after signing the rookie contract. With that gone, education + security = justification for 3%?

Here’s an example- The best training facilities have limited slots. Those slots are pre-promised to a handful of agents. If you want to train at API, you can’t just fill out an application. You need to hire the agent.

At the end of the day, the facilities are businesses that care about their bottom lines. If an athlete gets a loan from a bank and is offering to pay premium prices for training, he will be denied because he isn’t represented by a top agency? Maybe API will show that kind of allegiance because the facility is thinking long term, and perhaps if the athlete is set on API, you have a point.

you have an interesting website here, but I would suggest that you be careful at all times. Someone is always watching, and when there is a public record you need to be perfect. Keep up the good work.

Darren, Are players who sign either an NFL Player Contract or NBA Player Contract obligated to pay back their agents any money or services they provided (ie: training, hotels, flights) under the contract?


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