SBJ/May 20 - 26, 2002/Labor Agents

Congressmen introduce bill to extend agent regulations to all states

Agents who get student athletes to sign representation agreements with cash inducements or false promises could be fined and prosecuted by attorneys general in all 50 states under legislation introduced in Congress earlier this month.

The Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act is meant to act as a safety net for states that have not adopted legislation regulating agents, said U.S. Rep. Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.), who is co-sponsoring the bill with U.S. Rep Tom Osborne (R-Neb.), who was elected to Congress after retiring as coach of the University of Nebraska football team.

Gordon

Although the NCAA has been pushing states to adopt the Uniform Athletes Agent Act, 17 states have no laws regulating agent conduct, Gordon said.

"The real problem is where there is this illegal contact with the student athlete, the student athlete loses eligibility, the school can be penalized and nothing happens to the agent," Gordon said.

Osborne

"The NCAA said, 'Let's try to do this on a state-by-state basis,' " but the states are acting too slowly, Gordon said. "We found it became a patchwork of laws."

The NCAA is supportive of the federal bill, said NCAA spokeswoman Jane Jankowski. "We intend to continue to focus on working for passage of the Uniform Athlete Agent Act in all states," she said.

Gordon said his bill would not supersede state legislation regulating agents but would provide additional protection for student athletes.

The act would make it illegal for an agent to sign a student athlete to a contract if the agent:

• Gives false or misleading information or makes false promises.

• Provides anything of value to a student athlete before he or she signs an agency contract.

• Fails to provide the student athlete with a disclosure statement that he or she will lose collegiate eligibility by signing a contract.

• Predates or postdates a contract.

Agents could be subject to fines of up to $11,000 a day for each violation, Gordon said. He said he plans to hold hearings on the bill later this year.

LONGO STUDYING OPTIONS: Artists Management Group baseball agent Joe Longo is exploring his options, including potentially going back into business

Matt Williams is a client of Joe Longo, who's sifting offers after AMG Sports' breakup.
for himself or joining another agency, in the wake of the sale of most of the company's assets.

Longo joined AMG Sports in 2000 and has a client roster of about 10 major league players and 15 minor league players. His major league clients include Diamondbacks third baseman Matt Williams, Tigers right fielder Robert Fick, Tigers closer Matt Anderson, White Sox reliever Antonio Osuna and Orioles catcher Geronimo Gil.

AMG, the firm co-owned by Hollywood agent Michael Ovitz, sold most of its entertainment assets to The Firm early this month. AMG Sports head Jeff Schwartz is leaving the company to start his own agency.

Longo said he is not leaving with Schwartz because Schwartz's agency will focus mainly on Schwartz's basketball clientele, which includes Jason Kidd, Lamar Odom, Tyson Chandler and Paul Pierce.

"There is a chance that we may get together in the future because we have a great relationship," said Longo, "but he is looking out for basketball and I am looking out for baseball right now."

Longo said he is fielding calls from sports agencies and other entertainment businesses that could lead to new opportunities. The calls are mainly from people who know of his connection to Ovitz.

"One reason I am getting calls is because the press writes about him so much," Longo said.

Longo represented baseball players out of his own law firm from 1995 until he joined AMG in 2000.

NEW CINDRICH HIRE: Cindrich & Co. has continued its expansion by hiring Paul Martha, former general counsel of the San Francisco 49ers and the Pittsburgh Penguins, to head a new area of practice to include sports executive representation, team rights and stadium and arena issues.

Ralph Cindrich, veteran football agent and founder and owner of the company, said he was excited to have hired a sports industry executive of Martha's experience. Cindrich added that there will be "a wall" between Martha and player negotiations to ensure that there are no conflicts between representing team players and management.

Cindrich expanded his boutique football agency earlier this year by hiring basketball agent Steve Haney. The two recently signed University of California-Berkeley center Solomon Hughes for representation in the NBA draft.

Additionally, Cindrich signed San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Tai Streets for representation. Cindrich also signed three free agents: offensive lineman Daryl Terrell, defensive back Antonio Banks and linebacker Phil Clarke.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@amcity.com.

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