SBJ/November 4 - 10, 2002/Opinion

NFLPA vigorous, fair in enforcing agent rules

You printed in your Oct. 14-20 issue a letter from Kevin Hays, a former NFL agent who praises you for labeling agents as a "sleazy" group and criticizes the NFLPA for its supposed "non-enforcement" of rules governing agent behavior.

Hays' comments about the NFLPA are off the mark. The NFLPA has a proven record of vigorous enforcement of its regulations governing contract advisers. In the past six years, we have disciplined more than 50 agents for offenses ranging from improper recruitment of college players to overcharging of fees to veteran players.

At the same time, people must recognize that agent discipline cannot be based on rumor, hearsay or innuendo. As a lawyer, Hays should know that we must honor a person's right to due process. In cases involving client stealing, which your editor's column [in the Sept. 30-Oct. 6 issue] mentioned as the prime example of agent "sleaziness," we need more than just accusations by one agent that another agent has stolen his or her client.

Our player reps are still addressing ways to attack the client-stealing problem. For example, in March they passed an amendment to our agent regulations that prevents a prospective draftee from changing agents for a period of 30 days after he signs with an agent. Also, the NFLPA recently added a lawyer to its legal staff (Matt Couloute, a former prosecutor) in part to assist in the investigation of agent misconduct.

It is easy for someone like Hays to say that he was an honest and ethical agent, and that the NFLPA is to blame for the (supposed) majority of agents who are not like him. But the reality is that there are relatively few agents who break the rules, and sooner or later, those who do will be forced out of the business by the NFLPA and other agents who cooperate in bringing the evidence forward.

Richard Berthelsen
Washington, D.C.

Richard Berthelsen is general counsel of the NFLPA.

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