SBJ/December 19-25, 2011/Labor and Agents

New provision keeps active NBA players out of the agent biz

Liz Mullen
NBA players are now prohibited from holding an ownership stake in a player-management firm or from acting as National Basketball Players Association-certified agents under a provision in the league’s new collective-bargaining agreement.

The provision was something NBA owners asked for and players agreed to as one of the so-called B-list items, terms that were collectively bargained after the NBPA re-formed as a union, according to a union source.

It was not clear why the owners wanted the provision or what effect it will have, as it is not publicly known whether NBA players now own equity stakes in NBA player-representation firms. Two prominent agents, however, said last week that they believe that at least one star NBA player does have an equity interest in a player-rep firm and that more than one player has helped his agent recruit player clients for his firm.

The new regulation does not have a policing mechanism, but if a player is found to have an ownership stake in a firm, he would be required to divest himself of it, the union source said. This source requested anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter. The NBA did not respond to a request for comment.

Agents in multiple sports have said for years that other agents use clients to recruit new players, saying it provides an unfair competitive advantage.

Said one influential agent after learning about the new NBA rule last week, “I think most agents will be happy about it.”

SCOUTING A NEW GAME … OR NOT?: NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith said the NFLPA is holding the inaugural AstroTurf NFLPA Collegiate Bowl next month in part to prepare players for their dream of playing in the NFL.

The Jan. 21 game will be played at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., and televised by NBC Sports Network. The only problem is that NFL team scouts will not be there, something that is likely to hurt the union’s ability to attract top players to the game, agents said.

The reason? The NFL prohibits team scouts from attending all-star events where underclassmen are present.

Some people on the players’ side wondered last week why scouts would not be able to attend since the NFL will announce the list of underclassman eligible for the 2012 draft on Jan. 19, two days before the game. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in an email that it has nothing to do with the Jan. 19 date but, rather, an overall policy that prohibits scouts from being present at all-star games where college underclassmen are present. That policy has been in effect since 1989, the first year underclassmen were eligible for the draft.

George Atallah, NFLPA assistant executive director, external affairs, said the union has taken careful steps to make sure that all player participants in the game will be eligible for the draft.

“Each player has made a conscious decision to aspire to play in the National Football League,” Atallah said. “The league policy, regardless of how long it has been in place, could potentially deny draft-eligible players … an opportunity to showcase their talents to future employers. In short, the policy could be viewed as a group boycott, which has its own set of consequences.”

Aiello had no comment on that assertion.
 
SIGNINGS FOR LEGACY, ROSENHAUS: Legacy Sports has signed New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova, Cleveland outfielder Michael Brantley and free agent pitcher Micah Owings, who was with Arizona last season. Legacy MLB agents Greg Genske, Mike Maulini and Kenny Felder will represent the players. … Rosenhaus Sports has signed University of Miami running back Lamar Miller for representation in the NFL draft. Agent Drew Rosenhaus will represent Miller, who was ranked by NFLDraftScout.com last week as the No. 33 player overall for the draft and No. 2 at his position.

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