The state of Arkansas went into 2011 with a goal of passing legislation that would implement stricter punishments for those who violate the state’s athlete agent law, including sports agents, athletes’ relatives, and third parties who negotiate benefits in exchange for an athlete attending a university. The legislation, heralded by Representative David J. Sanders and presented by Senator Jeremy Hutchinson, was given the title, “The Athlete Agent Reform Act Of 2011,” and passed in the Arkansas House of Representatives and Senate by votes of 89-0 and 28-0 respectively.
The new law has completely changed the definition of “athlete agent” within Arkansas. To be considered an athlete agent in the state of Arkansas, one must either (1) have a student-athlete authorize the agent to enter into an agreement; (2) work on behalf of another agent (runners, recruiters, service providers, etc); and/or (3) represent to the public that he is 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 directorafter 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.
While the Act has received overwhelming support, Representative John Walker, a Democrat from Little Rock, Arkansas is not so sure about the Act’s effectiveness. He has stated, “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.” Perhaps one day the law will be used as a starting point for a new federal law. However, in the meantime, at least the NCAA has taken notice.
Last week, Arkansas Chief Deputy Attorney General Brad Phelps spoke about the Arkansas law at an NCAA-sponsored summit. It has been reported that State officials from North Carolina, Texas and Oklahoma, along with NFL and NFLPA members, and sports agents were in attendance. It appears that the UAAA may soon become a relic of the past. Will Arkansas’ law become the model for all states to follow? I am not positive that would be a good thing, as the maximum penalty of 6 years seems rather excessive.
The Act may be read below.