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Volume 21 No. 2

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
Under a new, tougher agent law in Oregon, marketing agents and financial advisers, in addition to playing-contract agents, can be prosecuted if they sign a student athlete and are not registered with both the state and the student athlete’s school.

The law goes into effect Jan. 1, about the same time many agents will be competing to sign college football players for the 2014 NFL draft. The Oregon law amends the Uniform Athlete Agents Act and is legislation that Jeff Hawkins, the University of Oregon’s senior associate athletic director for football administration and operations, has been pursuing for four years.

The law, which will grow tougher Jan. 1, covers those looking to represent Oregon and Oregon State athletes, among others.
Among other things, the new law:

Broadens the definition of who is an agent to anyone who profits from representing an athlete.

Requires that the Oregon attorney general enforce the law, rather than relying on district attorneys.

Requires that the athlete representatives register with the schools as well as the state.

Hawkins said he will be watching to see who signs Oregon athletes and will check to make sure they are registered as required by the new law. He added that agents who violate the law will do so at their own peril.

“I will seek them out,” Hawkins said last week. “I will hunt them down and report them.”

Agents have been privately complaining all fall that a number of universities are preventing them from contacting or meeting with college football players they are trying to recruit. Oregon is one of those schools.

Hawkins said that during the football season, Ducks football players could speak to agents on the phone. “They can talk to agents,” Hawkins said. “They just can’t meet face to face with them.”
Hawkins said the university has allowed football players to hold agent interviews after the regular season, which ended for the Ducks Nov. 29. Oregon also has offered to help the students and their families conduct the interviews and has given the student athletes a list of questions to ask agents, including who their current clients are and whether they have been fired.

Oregon plays in the Valero Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Dec. 30, after which players can sign with an agent for the draft.

> UNC OVERSEES INTERVIEWS: The University of North Carolina is another school that has worked to oversee agent interaction with student athletes. Earlier this month, athletic department officials were present at meetings between UNC football players and agents, said Paul Pogge, UNC associate athletic director.

“This past weekend, I spent like 17 hours in meetings,” Pogge said last week. The school was facilitating agent meetings with football players for a week-and-a-half period after the Tar Heels’ last regular-season game on Nov. 30. UNC plays in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 28.

In March, Pogge sent a letter to agents and other athlete representatives informing them that all communication with student athletes, including phone calls, must be pre-approved by the athletic department compliance office and the appropriate head coach.

In addition to the recent agent meetings, UNC supervised agent meetings between January and July, Pogge said.

Five individuals, including NFL agent Terry Watson, who has been suspended from representing players by the NFL Players Association, are being prosecuted in North Carolina for alleged violations of the Uniform Athlete Agents Act involving contact with UNC football players in 2010.

> EXCEL SIGNS LIVINGSTON: Excel Sports Management has signed Brooklyn Nets guard Shaun Livingston for representation. Jeff Schwartz, an Excel agent and company president, and agent Sean Kennedy will represent Livingston. He was formerly represented by CAA Sports.

> CASSPI LEAVES CAA SPORTS: Houston Rockets forward Omri Casspi has left CAA Sports. It was not known whether he had signed with a new agency as of last week.

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

The talks for a new WNBA collective-bargaining agreement have picked up in recent weeks, and more discussions between the league and the Women’s National Basketball Players Association are scheduled for later this month.

“Representatives from the union and the league have met several times over the past few weeks,” said Pam Wheeler, the WNBPA’s director of operations, in a statement. “We have several additional meetings scheduled and we expect the process to continue.”

The WNBA finished its postseason without labor disruption, although its prior CBA expired Sept. 30.
A WNBA spokesman did not return an inquiry for further comment.

The WNBA has been operating without a CBA since the prior deal expired Sept. 30. The players presented a proposal in recent weeks, sources said, after the league made its first proposal in early October.

One of the main issues for the players has been adding a spot on the WNBA clubs’ 11-player roster. Players and agents say there is a problem in holding practices when more than one player is injured because the teams cannot practice five-on-five.

Although regular meetings are generally a sign of progress in labor talks, it is not clear whether the two sides are near agreement on that or any other issue. The two sides have been doing a good job of keeping the details of the talks private, agents and other industry sources said.

Player-side sources said the union told players and agents during WNBA All-Star Weekend in July that it hoped to have a new agreement by the end of 2013.

The WNBA has a history of making labor deals after the expiration of a prior agreement and doing so without a strike or a lockout. The CBA that expired earlier this fall replaced a six-year labor deal that was agreed to in January 2008 after the previous CBA expired in September 2007.

The WNBA needs a CBA to conduct free agency signings. In years with a collective-bargaining agreement, WNBA clubs were allowed to talk to players in mid-January and sign them at the beginning of February. WNBA training camps are scheduled to open in April.