Sports Agents

Why Damarius Bilbo Did Not Deserve To Be Suspended By The NFLPA

damarius bilbo

The big news this week in the NFL agent world revolves around the three-month suspension of Contract Advisor Damarius Bilbo, who represents the likes of Xavien Howard, Melvin Gordon III, Alvin Kamara and Jarvis Landry. After digging deeper into the situation, it seems that not only should the original one-year suspension have been marginalized, no suspension really was deserving for the agent.

My biggest problem with the suspension is that nobody was harmed and, therefore, no punitive measure is necessary. Bilbo’s client Landry was due marketing money and received every penny that he was owed.

Next, Landry did not even want Bilbo to be punished. He wrote a letter stating as such and has remained a loyal client of Bilbo throughout the process of determining whether and to what extent Bilbo would be punished for his actions.

Bilbo and Landry entered into a marketing agreement in January 2014. The agreement authorized Bilbo to receive payment for Landry’s marketing activities from any third party.

Landry entered into a marketing arrangement with Lenovo. He was due a $18,000 fee for the services he provided to the company, which was to be paid out by the National Football League Players Incorporated (NFLPI), which is a direct deposit entity/program maintained by the NFLPA.

The NFLPI issued a check to Jarvis Landry, but also included Bilbo’s agency as a recipient. One glaring question is, why would the NFLPI include anyone other than Landry on the check if the entity’s position is that only Landry should be able to deposit the money?

Anyhow, the money was deposited into the company account maintained by Bilbo. The agent claimed that an employee mistakenly deposited the check in the account, because the employee believed that the payment was a marketing fee due to the firm (which was not made clear on the face of the check).

No harm, no foul. Right? Wrong. Bilbo is now suspended for three months from representing any NFL players.

But go back to the marketing agreement between Bilbo and Landry. It stipulates that Bilbo may receive payment for Landry’s marketing activities from any third party. Is the NFLPI not a third party? If Bilbo ultimately paid out Landry what he was due, then is this not the type of case that should have just been dropped?

Apparently not.

Since publishing this story, Ronald Jenkins, father of New York Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins reached out to me with some of his thoughts on the situation. He stated the following:

“It’s frustrating that Damarius [Bilbo] has been suspended. I know Damarius to be a good guy. When we signed up with him, Jordan [Jenkins] overpaid on agent fees and had no idea he overpaid. Damarius came to us and let us know that we had overpaid him. He let us know we were getting money back. If he was anything but honest, he could have easily kept that money. The fact that he reached out to us meant a lot to us. We trusted him in the beginning, and still have 100% trust in him now. I think a lot of people want to take down a young man who is coming up and getting big time clients, and a lot of people in the industry don’t like that. If his clients don’t have a problem with him, then who else’s business is it?”

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.