Sports Law

Football Agents Sued By Recruiter For Not Paying Him Off

There is a belief that many football agents use other individuals (oftentimes referred to as “runners”) to assist them in the recruitment of potential NFL player clientele. In fact, the NFL Players Association has recognized same as being an issue and in 2012 amended its regulations to prohibit certified Contract Advisors from using, associating with, employing or entering into a business relationship with any non-NFLPA certified individual in the recruitment of prospective player-clients. A new lawsuit filed by James Duckett in the federal district court for the Southern District of New York could put a couple of agents’ practices under review.

Duckett has sued football agents Hadley Engelhard and Wes Bridges, along with Engelhard’s company Enter Sports Management and Bridges’ law firm Becker LLC (formerly known as Becker Meisel, LLC). He claims that he had an agreement with the defendants to recruit NFL wide receiver Mike Williams in exchange for a piece of the commissions received from his on and off field earnings.

Engelhard and Bridges did in fact enter into a Standard Representation Agreement (SRA) with Williams. On November 15, 2009, Williams agreed to an SRA that would pay Engelhard and Bridges a total of 3% of his contractual earnings, with “33% of net proceeds of player contracts” going to Duckett.


In April 2010, Williams was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Soon thereafter, he signed a 4-year, $2.32 million contract. In 2013, he signed a 5-year, $39.62 million deal with Tampa Bay. The lawsuit claims that it was a guaranteed payment of $40.25 million, but in actuality, only a small portion of the deal provided for a fully guaranteed salary.

Anyhow, Duckett wants his money. He claims that Williams owes the defendants 3% of his earnings and defendants owe him 33% thereof, which has been demanded and remains unpaid.

Other than the money allegedly owed, this lawsuit shows the inner workings of the NFL representation business. Perhaps Engelhard and Bridges escape NFLPA scrutiny because Duckett was used as a recruiter prior to the new 2012 regulations. However, if Duckett wasn’t a licensed agent in the state(s) where recruitment of Williams took place, then this could become a larger issue. Then again, relevant statute of limitations could make that issue moot as well.


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.