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The Athlete Agent Reform Act Of 2011 In Arkansas

It is not yet law, but the state of Arkansas is one step closer to having a tougher law regulating sports agents.  Last week, the Arkansas House of Representatives passed a bill titled THE ATHLETE AGENT REFORM ACT OF 2011 (embedded at the bottom of this post in its entirety).  House Bill 1061 by Rep. David J. Sanders passed through the House of Representatives by a vote of 89-0.  Next up, the Senate will discuss its provisions.

The bill proposes to completely change the definition of “athlete agent” within Arkansas.  All you have to do to be considered an athlete agent is to either 1) have a student-athlete authorize you to enter into an agreement, 2) work on behalf of another agent (runners, recruiters, service providers, etc), or 3) represent to the public that you are an athlete agent.  Additionally, family members who offer or solicit on their own behalf or the student-athlete’s behalf any sort of financial benefit or gift not allowed by the NCAA will be considered athlete agents under the Act.

Furthermore, the Act demands that athlete agents notify a school’s athletic director prior to contacting an athlete at that school.  However, the Act also gives a 72-hour window to inform the athletic director after the contact is made.

Agents who provide a financial benefit or gift to a student-athlete may go to jail for up to 6 years and/or be fined $250,o00, if the Act becomes law.

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has stated that the legislation “does, in fact, put skin in the game for those who are engaging in wrongful conduct.”  He went on to say, “I do not think that under the current law there’s enough deterrence to effectively reach the decision-making process of somebody who may be in Miami driving a Ferrari and reaching out to young athletes all over the United States.”

Rep. John Walker, a Democrat from Little Rock, Arkansas is not so sure about this Act’s effectiveness, though.  He is quoted as saying, “Perhaps this would be better to be a national law rather than a local law because you can talk about the agent, but you can’t bring that person within the state unless he has some significant direct contact with the student in the state.”  This is just one of many reasons why the Act fits better as national legislation.  But it is a step in the right direction for states like Arkansas to take sports agent illegality serious.  However, deterrence will come through enforcement, not mere words.

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.

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