Headline Sports Law

California’s Athlete Agent Act To Be Reformed In 2012

California State Senator Kevin de León’s sports agent reform bill (Senate Bill 238) has been signed by California’s governor and will become law starting on January 1, 2012.  However, I am not quite ready to go on the record and agree with de León’s statement that “California’s collegiate student athletes scored big when [the bill] was signed by the Governor…”  Any informed person realizes that state sports agent regulations do little to nothing to benefit the student-athletes; they are put in place to protect the universities, which could suffer tremendously from NCAA punishments based on impermissible sports agent activities on their campuses.  In the past, I have even stated that it may make the most sense to just repeal all sports agent laws, which I argue would benefit the student-athletes more than anything else.

But let’s talk about the bill that will soon become law in California.  As I have stated many times over, there is no cause for celebration just because some new legislation has been passed in any given state.  Any perceived issue by and large is not due to a lack of regulations; what needs fixing (if you are of the belief that these regulations are worthwhile) is the enforcement of the regulations.  California’s law has never actually been used to charge an agent since its creation in 1996.  Statements like “California is now one step closer to preventing student athlete victimization with the passage of this legislation” sounds great in re-election campaigns, but legislators need to be honest with the public – these new laws do not mean a damn thing unless and until they are enforced.  As USC vice president for athletic compliance David Roberts has stated in the past, “Until there is a situation where an agent is the subject of a major civil award or criminal conviction, it’s not going to stop.”

Here is a line in de León’s press release that got me just a tad worked up:

[Sports agents] frequently employ tactics that involve secret payments, providing student athletes with unrealistic promises, and force student athletes into entering contracts that are not in their best interest.

Does the Senator not realize that his legislation, and no sports agent law on the books in the entire United States, will have any effect on agents providing student athletes with unrealistic promises?  Athletes succumbing to unrealistic promises from sports agents is probably the number one issue we should be concerned about, yet the only way to fix that problem is through educating the athletes on what they should be looking for in an agent, along with the types of statements that should throw up a red flag.  A reformation to an existing athlete agent law is supposed to somehow make athletes wake up and sniff out the false promises?

The good: California’s new athlete agent law will force agents who violate its provisions to relinquish any money received or owed if that money was connected to the violation.  Additionally, sports agents will have their business privileges suspended or revoked if it is found that they violate the athlete agent law.

I first covered this legislative attempt to change California’s athlete agent law back in May 2011 when the Select Committee on Sports and Entertainment in the California State Senate held a hearing titled, Protecting Student Athletes from Unscrupulous Athlete Agents at the Los Angeles Coliseum to discuss the state’s athlete agent law, and what, if any, changes should be made to the law.   Speakers included former NFL receiver J.J. Stokes, Ramogi Huma of the National College Players Association, former NFL agent Josh Luchs, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, USC vice president for athletic compliance David Roberts, and Marc Isenberg, author of Money Players.

Following California’s governor signing Kevin de León’s sports agent reform bill, Josh Luchs (@Joshluchs) Tweeted, “Never saw final language. I was 4 plyr protection, but entire system still needs change.”  Marc Isenberg (@marcisenberg) Tweeted, “1)our govt should hv more impt things to focus on. 2)absurd to elevate NCAA rules into law 3) no enforcement. 4)touted as protecting athletes, but mostly abt protecting schools. 5)no crim penalties 4 coaches/boosters who engage in similar activities.”  I have spoken on the same panels as these gentlemen at institutions of higher education, and I am far from surprised that our views align on this particular issue.  Is anyone actually listening to what we are saying?

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.