Headline NFL Players Recruiting Sports Law

Forget About Jay-Z; Should NFLPA Scrap Ridiculous Runner Rule?

A couple of days ago, the following Tweet by NFLPA Contract Advisor Blake Baratz caught my attention:

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josh luchs
Former NFLPA Contract Advisor Josh Luchs once said that the NFLPA’s “runner rule” is impossible to enforce.

Later that day, I spoke to Josh Luchs, author of Illegal Procedure: A Sports Agent Comes Clean On The Dirty Business Of College Football, who once said to me, “this new runner rule isn’t difficult to enforce, it’s impossible.  This is another rule that won’t be enforced by the NFLPA, because they don’t have a mechanism by which to do it.  Agents are going to continue to have arm’s-length recruiting relationships with non-certified individuals.  The only thing that is going to change is that agents are going to be even more careful in the way they recruit, and who they trust in their inner circle, than they were before.  People who violate the rules are just going to do it more clandestinely now.”

He went on to say, in an article published on June 1, 2012, that “the regulation casts too wide of a net, unfortunately, which makes it impossible to enforce.  There are many coaches, players, and family members that are influential in the process of selecting agents.  Under the extremely subjective regulation, they all may have to become certified by the NFLPA.  The new rule is simply an overreaction to headlines that have made the NFLPA look bad over time.”

A few things stick out.  First, that Luchs believed the regulation would require an exhaustive list of people to become certified, which is improbable to expect.  Second, the rule was the NFLPA’s overreaction to headlines that have made the NFLPA look bad.

Not too long ago agents were up in arms about Jay-Z’s alleged involvement in Victor Cruz changing representation and signing with Creative Artists Agency.  The NFLPA’s response was that Jay-Z and Cruz had a longstanding relationship, which somehow allowed the recruitment to avoid extended scrutiny by the Association.  The rules seem to have been violated, but as Luchs said, they were impossible to enforce in the first place, especially against those who wield immense power.

What about the comment about the rules being an overreaction to headlines?  All of a sudden, the NFLPA intends to “aggressively” explore Jay-Z’s role in the recruitment of NFL players, starting with Geno Smith, who recently signed with new Roc Nation Sports employee Kim Miale.  This is after multiple media entities churned out numerous articles inquiring about how an individual who had negotiated zero active NFL contract all of a sudden signs a highly coveted NFL rookie quarterback and quizzically achieved the accomplishment in rather close proximity to requesting the NFLPA to change her affiliation to that of “Roc Nation Sports.”

Baratz says that agents should not want Jay-Z disciplined.  As suggested in prior articles, the NFLPA cannot discipline Jay-Z; he is not a certified Contract Advisor, and thus, the Association has no jurisdiction over Jay-Z.  However, the NFLPA could choose to take action against Miale.  But maybe that would also be improper.  Perhaps the NFLPA should realize that the rule itself was unwarranted and it would be unjust to enforce it in this case.  Further, if it enforced its “runner rule” against Miale, how many other certified Contact Advisors would deserve similar (if not more extreme) punishment for their associations with non-certified individuals concerning the recruitment of football clients?

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.