SBJ/September 12-18, 2011/Labor and Agents

NFLPA’s agent rules, including ‘junior rule,’ are back in effect

Liz Mullen
The NFL Players Association’s board of player representatives last week passed a resolution for the newly reconstituted union to begin regulating NFL agents again.

The NFLPA’s ability to regulate agents who negotiate NFL playing contracts flows from its status as the exclusive bargaining unit for all NFL players. The NFLPA renounced that right when it decertified as a union on March 11, ahead of the NFL lockout, but it recertified upon completion of the NFL’s new collective-bargaining agreement.

Agents were expected to receive notification last week that the NFLPA is regulating them once again.

Agents in good standing were expected to receive notice that they have been certified under an interim status until they can reapply for certification. Those agents are expected to reapply for that certification by Oct. 1. Agents not in good standing, such as those who had a disciplinary complaint issued against them as of March 11, would not be granted interim status. It was not clear as of last Wednesday how many agents might fall into that category.

The player reps did not change any of the existing regulations as part of voting for the NFLPA to begin regulating agents again. That means the controversial “junior rule” that prohibits agents from speaking to college football players until after their third year in school is back in effect.

NFL agents disagree on a lot of things, but they almost universally oppose this rule. They say it gives unscrupulous contract agents, as well as marketing agents and financial advisers, an upper hand in recruiting college players.

Any changes to the junior rule, as well as any other regulatory changes, would be considered at the NFLPA’s annual meeting in March. Players are expected at that meeting to consider another new regulation that would require agents’ recruiters, or “runners,” as they are commonly known, to be certified.

Because of the time constraints in which clubs were trying to fill rosters in the week or so after the end of the lockout, the agents who negotiated those free agent and rookie deals were not officially certified by the union. The NFLPA will hold an agent seminar in Chicago on Sept. 30, the first official meeting of agents since it reformed as a union.

“We are pleased to be working closely with the contract adviser community,” said George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director, last week.

EXCEL SIGNS GOLFER KANG: Excel Sports Management has signed back-to-back U.S. Amateur champion Danielle Kang. She is the first new golf client that Mark Steinberg, agent to Tiger Woods, has signed since he joined Excel as a full partner this summer.

Kang, 18, became the first woman in 15 years to successfully defend her U.S. Amateur title when she won the 2011 event last month.

Steinberg last week said that he is just starting to talk to companies about endorsement deals for Kang, who was set to make her pro debut this past weekend at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship, an LPGA Tour event for which she was granted a sponsor’s exemption. Kang and her parents ran her agent search, and she was recruited “by the usual cast of companies you would know very well,” Steinberg said.

PROFORMANCE SIGNS MLB PLAYERS: Proformance Inc., a baseball player representation firm based in Richmond, Va., has signed for representation in recent months Detroit Tigers all-star closer Jose Valverde, Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Barry Enright and Los Angeles Angels infielder Alexi Amarista.

Proformance agents Bean Stringfellow and Orlando Ventura will represent Valverde, agent Andrew Lowenthal will represent Enright, and agents Jay Alou and Junior Rojas will represent Amarista.

MAXX SETS BROADCAST DEALS: Maxx Sports & Entertainment has negotiated a number of new broadcast deals for its clients recently, including an agreement for a multiyear extension for former NHL player Jeremy Roenick that would have him remaining with NBC Sports Network (the current Versus) for NHL coverage.

Maxx also negotiated the recent deal for Rodney Harrison to join NFL Network in addition to his work for NBC’s “Football Night in America,” and it negotiated the multiyear deal for newly retired running back Heath Evans to join NFL Network as well.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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